One hand washing the other

(From left) UEFA President Michel Platini,FIFA President Sepp Blatter and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer during a charity match in Ulrichen, Switzerland. The three backed Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup.-(From left) UEFA President Michel Platini,FIFA President Sepp Blatter and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer during a charity match in Ulrichen, Switzerland. The three backed Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

We still do not know quite how Blatter swept into Presidential power before the 1998 tournament in France, succeeding the ineffable Joao Havelange, under whose corrupt tutelage the moral cause at FIFA was lost, when he bought African votes (with money from the Brazilian Confederation of which he was President) defeating the English incumbent Sir Stanley Rous, writes Brian Glanville.

On the eve of the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, itself a country whose football, like its politics is stepped in corruption, still more damning evidence has emerged about how Qatar bought their way to staging the 2022 World Cup. Then horrific details, published by my own paper, the Sunday Times, not only show beyond any reasonable doubt that the millionaire Mohamed bin Hammam, working an behalf of the Qatari football authority, however ludicrously they deny it, spent some USD5 million on bribing members of the Executive Committee to favour Qatar. If you wished to be truly cynical, I suppose you might say that it was quite cheap at the price. But these appalling facts are all but surpassed when such heroes of the game as Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer appear to be implicated.

Platini was one of the finest French players of all time, but now alas a clumsy President of UEFA, the European body, forever emitting crass decisions. Franz Beckenbauer both captained and managed Germany to the World Cup title. A superb footballer who has been credited as inventing, when a precocious teenager at Bayern Munich, what came to be known as Total Football, with its attacking libero, the role he perfected for himself.

It has now been established among the literally millions of e-mails and other evidence acquired by the Sunday Times that in October 2009, the year before Qatar was awarded the World Cup that Beckenbauer, who has been quoted as saying he saw nothing wrong with the choice, that Qatar should receive a fair chance, travelled to Doha, the capital of Qatar, as the guest of Bin Hammam together with a lobbyist called Fedor Radmann. There the two stayed at Bin Hammam’s expense in a deluxe hotel. They were taken to meet the Emir by Bin Hammam. In May 2011, Beckenbauer met Bin Hammam in London. In June he and five others, four of them executives of the German ER Shipping, for whom he is now a consultant, were guests of Bin Hammam in Doha at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Platini has made no secret of the fact that he not only voted for Qatar but even as President of UEFA endorsed the idea of playing the tournament in winter rather than in the 50-degree Fahrenheit summer, despite the chaos this would inflict on the European clubs, which he supposedly represented. He has confirmed meeting members of the Qatar bid committee in Nyon, Switzerland, shortly before Qatar who the World Cup 2022 vote.

For those of us, who have admired both star players in their active days, these revelations are distressing. Reminiscent almost of the film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ when the hapless Mia Farrow, escaping from Satanists, goes for help to two seemingly trustworthy figures, who both turn out to be Satanists themselves. Not for a moment that I believe either Platini or Beckenbauer to be Satanists, but the shock remains.

And how much use will prove the official investigation by FIFA into these sombre deeds, conducted by the allegedly eminent American lawyer Michael Garcia? Any real hope one had of him emerging with a damning report largely evaporated when, shortly before the World Cup 2014 began, he announced that — clearly under pressure from FIFA — he intended to close his investigation right away. This without even interviewing Bin Hammam, and merely saying that he had taken note of the Sunday Times investigation, which had barely broken when he was concluding his own inquest, announcing that it would be six weeks before his verdict was known.

Depressing in such circumstances to read what was said about him by Scott Horton, the Columbia University professor of law, who answered, “The one thing that could be predicted with utter confidence on the basis of Garcia’s professional career is that he would zealously protect whoever appointed him and paid his bills. He might actually go after corrupt figures, but only to the extent if it served the agenda of the person who appointed him.”

For his part, Blatter, as he awaited the result of the Presidential elections, which would gain him his fifth consecutive four-year term, has said smugly, “Never ignoring media reports on ethics allegation in football. But let the Ethics Committee work.” Blatter has now said he acknowledges that Qatar was a mistaken choice, but that he would still favour the tournament being moved into the winter.

Yet what of the award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia, controversially awarded and mysteriously so at the very same time the 2022 vote went to Qatar? When by all logic there was no need to bring the 2022 vote so far forward. It has now transpired that Bin Hammam has even been to Moscow, seeing Putin himself, arranging various oil and gas deals, but also, no doubt, discussing Russia’s bid for the 2018 tournament. A bid, which should never have been recognised by hypocritical FIFA and their meaningless ‘Kick Out Racism’ policy. When it is all too well known that racism is endemic in Russian football and a salient reason why they would never have been awarded the tournament. But it now seems automatic that once the smoke had cleared over the Qatar scandal, close attention must be paid to exactly how Russia came to be chosen. With England, supposedly a leading candidate with the stadiums to prove it, restricted to a humiliating mere couple of votes, one of which was their own, Beckenbauer claiming that his was the other.

We still do not know quite how Blatter swept into Presidential power before the 1998 tournament in France, succeeding the ineffable Joao Havelange, under whose corrupt tutelage the moral cause at FIFA was lost, when he bought African votes (with money from the Brazilian Confederation of which he was President) defeating the English incumbent Sir Stanley Rous. From that point, 40 years of putrescence ensued. Quite recently, Havelange, now 98, and wallowing in wealth, lost his role as the honorary President of FIFA over a scandal involving massive bribes paid by the now defunct ISL company to acquire World Cup communication rights.

Also impugned was his ex-son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, for many years subject for investigation over tax fraud by the Brazilian tax authorities, but actually and outrageously head of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup Committee. He had to resign, but how was he ever appointed and what does it tell you about the current moral state of Brazilian football?

In truth, there is nothing to be done with FIFA. Corruption goes too wide and too deep. And to be objective, how much opposition did Havelange meet in his 24 tarnished years of Presidency? As the Sicilians say, one hand washes the other.