Shameless FIFA mandarins

Jerome Valcke, the FIFA General Secretary, however shameless a manipulator and arrogant autocrat, is in the final analysis a symptom rather than a cause. By Brian Glanville.

Seldom can there have been a more ferocious attack on a prominent international football administrator than the one recently aimed by a Daily Telegraph sports columnist at Jerome Valcke, Secretary General of FIFA. Under the trenchant headline, “Valcke: Blatter’s Sly Sidekick.” Let me say at once that I agree with every word of Oliver Brown's furious denunciation, but I would take the whole sombre affair a step further or, in the circumstances, perhaps I should say a step back. For the USD64,000 question must surely be, what is Valcke doing there at all?

Let us go five years back in time. Valcke then a step or so below his present role, was sent by FIFA together with the corpulent Chuck Blazer, then the New York based number two of the CONCACAF Federation — the number one then being the ineffable and subsequently, if belatedly, disgraced Jack Warner — to a New York court, where their dubious job was to release FIFA from its perfectly valid World Cup deal with Mastercard in favour of their rivals, VISA

The woman judge presiding over the case would have none of it. She roundly denounced the pair of them as liars and sent them packing. Back in Zurich, Valcke found himself dismissed from his job by FIFA with the ringing, however, devious words, “we could not possibly accept such conduct among our own employees.” This, as you will see at once, begs a pretty important question. Why send Blazer and Valcke to that New York court in the first place with so spurious a brief?

But never mind; after a little while the smoke cleared and Valcke was not only rehabilitated; he was actually promoted to the major role he has now; as Secretary General of the organisation. One hand washed the other, as the Sicilians traditionally say, but what about the other hundreds of hands, which constitute the member countries and their representatives of FIFA itself? I cannot remember even a whisper of protest, the least attempt to hoist FIFA with its own petard, to ask why Valcke and Blazer had been sent to that New York court at all to plead what was now damned not only in that court but in Zurich too as a reprehensibly case. And why Valcke should initially at least have been punched and vilified simply for carrying out what were clearly orders?

All too easy to remember the words of an English 18th century political philosopher; that for evil to triumph, it was enough for good men to do nothing. Just as nothing was done to obstruct, let alone terminate the appalling 24-year Presidential reign of the ineffable Joao Havelange, Blatter’s patron. Only recently impugned to gather with another scoundrel, the Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira, for taking a huge bribe from the now defunct ISL company for ceding them World Cup rights.

Havelange received the meaningless penalty of losing his title of honorary President of FIFA — by then in his late 90s. Teixeira, once his indulged son-in-law, whom he dragged up from relative poverty, had to quit his position as (despite years of corruption and manipulation) head of the Brazilian World Cup organising body.

Thus we can see that Valcke, however shameless a manipulator and arrogant autocrat, is in the final analysis a symptom rather than a cause. But what a symptom! “Reptilian and utterly ruthless” is how Oliver Brown bluntly categorises him. What also emerges is the embarrassing fact that as long ago as 2013 at an Olympic Congress in Buenos Aires, Valcke told reporters that changing the tournament in Qatar from summer to winter was effectively done and dusted. You wonder why after this cynical revelation the various European bodies did not rise up in anger and rebellion as early as that.

Quite recently the Qatar authorities took Valcke on a tour of the workers’ living quarters at the chief stadium, the Al Wakrah, which had evidently been spruced up for the occasion. Shades of what happened in early Stalinist days in the old Soviet Union, when gullible visitors from Western Europe were shown a serious of fake villages, which were passed off as genuine facilities. Valcke seemed quite content to go along with the fiasco, naively or disingenuously claiming credit for the supposed power of the World Cup for improving the rights of immigrant workers. Some 1,200 of whom had in fact died on the job, in the ferocious summer heat, unable to escape even had they wanted, as their passports had been taken away.

It looks alas as if the pass has been well and truly sold, the justified protests of the European countries, whose club schedules will be torn apart by staging the World Cup from November to December in 2022, going for nothing. Valcke grandiosely declared that clubs, which have to supply their players, will be compensated by that, deplorably, will be as far as it goes. The knock on effect all the way down the various divisions will be hardly felt by the lesser clubs, many of whom in England rely on their Christmas programme to make the money which they so desperately need.

As the FIFA Presidential elections grow closer, with Sepp Blatter shamelessly and imperviously standing for a ludicrous fifth term, it seems no one can stop him. Least of all the handful of no hopers, who nominally at least have thrown their hats into the ring, Luis Figo, once a major star with Real Madrid and Barcelona, a senior Dutchman, an Arab potentate, who doesn’t even have the support of his own Federation. Figo and the Dutchman, putting forth absurd suggestions — such as enlarging the entry of the World Cup finalists beyond even its present exaggerated number.

Of course there is no valid sign of Michel Platini, allegedly in favour of such irrelevant candidates, leading the revolt he should as President of UEFA. He voted for Qatar as a summer choice, he gave his support to the idea of playing in the European winter. And we know now, alas, that this was under pressure from the then President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. There is no hint of money changing hands as in the depressing case of Franz Beckenbauer, publicly accused of being paid handsomely by Russians and Qataris alike. A nightmare!