Take me to your leader

UEFA president Michel Platini wants to increase the number of teams in the World Cup to 40!-AP

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been ferociously criticised for his plans, policies and dealings, even if he was seemingly not involved in the scandalous decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. By Brian Glanville.

The old cry of “Take me to your leader” would alas be doomed to fall on deaf ears in today’s football. For, where is a decent leader to be found? Certainly not at the head of the international body FIFA where such a figure is needed most. The ineffable Joao Havelange, recently obliged to give up as honorary President over pocketing huge sums of money from the now defunct ISL company presided for 24 abysmal, corrupt years over the world wide organisation. His successor Sepp Blatter has been ferociously criticised for his plans, policies and dealings, even if he was seemingly not involved in the scandalous decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Michel Platini, such a superb footballer, has proved so far a disastrous President of the European body, UEFA, backing the World Cup in Qatar, initiating a disastrously over populated Europe competition now full of far-flung minnows, failing to secure Turkey for the ensuing European international finals and spreading them recklessly across the continent, bloating the size of the competition and now suggesting that 40 countries should contest future World Cup finals.

Bloating indeed has been the deplorable theme since Havelange so deviously ousted England’s Stanley Rous as FIFA President in Frankfurt in 1974. Till then a compact and manageable 16 teams contested the World Cup finals. Havelange enlarged the complement to an unmanageable 24 and Blatter has gone beyond that adding another eight teams.

At the same time as which Havelange was officially disgraced — not that it will much matter to him in his late 90s — Brazil’s notorious Ricardo Teixeira, once Havelange’s son-in-law and owing his rise from poverty to riches to him — was kicked out of football for his own involvement with the ISL scandal. This, after having to abandon his role as top man in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup organisation. Like his mentor, he had gone unscathed for years.

Now, for the embarrassing question of just how Havelange was able to stay in power for all those years, time after time re-elected by the FIFA delegates without opposition. In an old Sicilian saying, “One hand washed the other,” and all too many hands were washed by Havelange’s.

On a recent appearance at, of all places, the Oxford Union, Blatter made a very strange speech. “Perhaps you think I am a ruthless parasite,” he said, “sucking the life-blood out of the world and out of football. The godfather of the FIFA gravy train. An out of touch heartless schmoozer… You might have been led to believe FIFA is the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. But the truth is we have more in common with Robin Hood.”

I am irresistibly reminded of what was said to me long ago by an ironic German Journalist. “Sepp Blatter has 50 new ideas every day and 51 of them are bad.” Such as enlarging the goals, substituting kick-in for throw-ins and persuading women footballers to wear shorter shorts.

Devastating indeed were the revelations, with full chapter and verse, of the cronyism between Blatter and the abysmal Jack Warner, top man in the CONCACAF body till at last forced out over attempted bribery of delegates. Exploiting his position and the votes in FIFA which it carried, Warner was clearly able to get whatever he liked out of an almost affectionate Blatter.

Before his scandalously belated ejection from the world game, Warner, a constant critic of English football, was even, before voting took place on the venue for the 2018 World Cup, able to stroll in and out of the Prime Minister’s residence at 10, Downing Street. Warner, who in due course voted against England, anyway was courted not only by the Prime Minister David Cameron but even by Prince William. Even the English Press had described this charlatan as a power broker.

But what of Jerome Valcke, new number two, at FIFA to Blatter himself? He it was a while ago who attended a New York Court with the corpulent Chuck Blazer to argue that ‘Mastercard’ should be replaced by ‘Visa’ as official participants in the ensuing World Cup. The woman judge scornfully threw out their case calling them both liars. Valcke returned to Zurich, where he was briefly suspended from his post. But when the smoke cleared, lo and behold he had been promoted to his present position.

England has not produced a major administrator since Stanley Rous who presided as Football Association Secretary from 1934 to 1962 when he became President of FIFA. A powerful figure with an international outlook, he rewrote the laws of the game. True, he kept his protégé Walter Winterbottom in charge as England’s manager for an incredible 16 years despite such embarrassing defeats at Wembley and in Budapest by the dazzling Hungarians while he wasn’t too concerned about the players, the troops on the ground. An undoubted authoritarian but blessedly honest. When the ineffectual Denis Follows became his unexpected successor, I heard him say, “The Secretary is meant to be the servant of Association and we all know what happened; the servant became the master.” Just as well I thought at the time and still do

Even if I recall, the day before the 1962 World Cup final, when football waited breathlessly to see if Brazil’s Garrincha would be suspended, Stanley, when asked about it, replied, “Seven and nine, seven and nine. Seven was cautioned and nine was suspended.” Seven was Garrincha!