Racism rages on

Why blame Platini in particular for the lamentable record on racism of FIFA itself, whose so called ‘Kick Out Racism' campaign has been exposed as the most hollow of frauds. How could they begin to reconcile the choice of Russia with the evidence of unchallenged racism? Over to Brian Glanville.

Take me to your leader; if you can ever find him. The latest to show feet of clay, even though his football feet may have been golden is none other than Michel Platini, President of UEFA with well known ambitions to follow the ineffable Sepp Blatter as President of FIFA. Platini has now come under withering fire.

Already there had been serious criticism of him, first for his top heavy, over populated, absurdly drawn out successor to the old UEFA Cup, the so called Europa League. More alarming, by far, has been his inexplicable support for tiny, wealthy but, in soccer terms, negligible Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Not only and shamelessly did Platini vote for them when every logical argument — heat, insignificance in football terms — was against them. He even, quite outrageously, in his major European role, suggested that the tournament be played there not in hot summer but at the height of the European football season thereby threatening to plunge its clubs and competitions into chaos.

There is no indication that Platini's daft positions were occupied for any reason other than that in his confusion he actually believed in them. But how in the name of logic could he? That Platini, in a press conference in Warsaw shortly before the start of the finals of the European Championship, should boast of the nine goals he scored for France in the EURO Championship finals of 1984 seemed a trifle pathetic. Fine goals they mostly were though, as one who attended that tournament, I can also remember that his form in the semifinal and especially the final, against a weakened Spain, was strangely disappointing.

But, given the fierce inquisition to which he was then subjected and his increasing, evasive embarrassment, his initial boasts came to seem something of a feeble smokescreen.

As one wise commentator wrote, “The problem with Platini was plain throughout the session. Below the surface very little is there… His solutions, his examples, his logic do not bear scrutiny.”

He would make no decent defence of the absurd intention to increase the number of European finalists in 2016 to a clumsy 24. Just think that when this competition began, only four teams contested the final stages! He seemed to take the problem of racism in Poland and Ukraine quite casually yet within days the black Dutch players in public training were being shamefully abused by 500 Polish hooligans.

Yet, on reflection, why blame Platini in particular for the lamentable record on racism of FIFA itself, whose so called ‘Kick Out Racism' campaign has been exposed as the most hollow of frauds. How could they begin to reconcile the choice of Russia with the evidence of unchallenged racism? Which so appallingly forced that gifted Nigerian attacker, Peter Odemwingie, out of Lokomotiv Moscow, celebrated sickeningly by a banner held aloft by fans, thanking West Bromwich Albion, illustrated by a banana? Nor can one forget the admission by the respected Dutch coach, Dick Advocaat, that when he was managing Zenith St. Petersburg, he did not dare to sign any black player.

To give him his due, Platini emphasised at that embarrassing press conference that Ukraine was chosen as the 2012 EURO co-venue well before he was appointed at UEFA. But how could it defensibly have been, when Oleg Blokhin, once a major Ukrainian star winger, now the national team manager, has emitted vicious attacks on black players?

Take me to your leader, indeed! At FIFA we still have Sepp Blatter presiding over a veritable Augean stable of corruption just as, for 24 scandalous years, did his greedy predecessor, Joao Havelange. Currently under investigation by the Swiss authorities over the USD1 million or so he pocketed from the ISL organisation, which eventually collapsed after buying up more sports rights than it could hope to handle. Havelange, in Frankfurt, in 1974, thanks to the votes of African representatives he brought to the Congress, with money drawn from the Brazilian Football Confederation, managed to oust as FIFA President Stanley Rous. Arguably the last palpably honest leader of the world football; and equally arguably, the last truly effective leader of English soccer, in his 28-year reign as Secretary of the Football Association.

Of Havelange's depredations you can read in shocking detail in David Yallop's ‘How they Stole the Game'. As for Blatter, he must be alarmed by the prospect of a vengeful Jack Warner, dismissed as the President of CONCACAF for his alleged finagling, who now threatens to spill the beans. Read Andrew Jennings' ‘Foul!' for the whole putrescent story of the almost affectionate liaison between Blatter and Trinidad's Warner (fawned on uselessly by Prime Minister David Cameron, when he hoped in vain for Warner's 2018 World Cup vote) with Warner now accused of grabbing a whole new Trinidad stadium for himself.

Then there's the case of Chuck Blazer, formerly devoted number two to Warner at CONCACAF who suddenly turned “state's evidence” against him and is now under investigation over millions of dollars that he made by USA authorities. Blazer of course it was, together with FIFA's Jerome Valcke, who was branded a liar by a woman judge in New York when trying to divest Mastercard of their World Cup rights in favour of Visa. But Valcke is now chief executive of FIFA under Blatter!

An old Sicilian saying, “One hand washes the other”, comes dismally to mind. So far as one can recall, not a single voice was raised by any member country when Valcke was promoted. But then, nor was it in the tarnished years when Joao Havelange was in charge.