James Dostoyevsky: A Saudi welcome for a world leader…

If there ever was a snub, then it is this one: Transparencist-in-Chief and FIFA-Almighty Gianni, The Infantino, made a trip recently to see how his flock are faring in the timid December heat of the Middle East. It was a fine trip, with lovely meals, lovely people everywhere and lovely sights to see (sic!).

His valiant (crusading?) journey took him, among other equally fine destinations, to the fabulously fair(ytale) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Although the pomp and ceremony laid out for FIFA’s Grande were not at levels that would satisfy The Donald, and a golden golf cart was not on hand either, he was graciously received by the Monarch. Fabulous.

But wait.

Not so fabulous, when you listen to the Chairman of the General Sports Authority and Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee and Chairman of the Arab Football Federation Mr Turki Al-Sheikh, who posted a lovely bromance pic on the website of the General Sports Authority (https://www.gsa.gov.sa/en/Pages/default.aspx) with the very same Gianni Infantino whom he proceeds to put in his place as follows (real transcript of a real interview):

Question :
The question is regarding the (FIFA) President’s visit to Saudi; there were 2 visits, one when a meeting with the king took place and another a meeting with the Crown Prince. Seemingly there is interest from the top leadership in enhancing the relationship with the top leadership of the football world. What is the future direction the Saudi sports leadership would like to follow in this regard?

Response :
“Firstly, to clarify, the President of FIFA is the one that is honored to meet with our leaders.
Secondly the President of FIFA was the one keen to meet our leaders. Why? Because our leaders are the most important or one of the most important decision makers in the world. The King has 1.5 Muslims praying towards his country so he is the Father of the Arabs and the Muslims. FIFA president as everyone else also saw that Trump chose Saudi as his first destination on his first international trip. The FIFA president after meeting the King requested to meet the Crown Prince but The Crown Prince’s schedule was busy, 3 times he tried but the Crown Prince was the busy one. Finally the opportunity came about and the meeting took place. It shows that the FIFA president was keen and understands the Crown Prince’s influence in decision making regionally and globally not only in sports, but economically and politically in the world.”

So, where Blatter moved with ease in the past among Kings and Heads of State (like him or not is irrelevant: he did move about with ease), Infantino must be “honored to meet with our leaders”. I am sure he is, no worries! And why must he be honoured to be received? Well obviously because of this: “Because our leaders are the most important or one of the most important decision makers in the world.” Gotcha! Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

But there is more. So, the King received Infantino, but the man with the daily clout (you know, Ritz Carlton and stuff), the Crown Prince, played coy, or correctly spelled out: “was busy”. So what now, Gianni? This:

The FIFA president after meeting the King requested to meet the crown prince but the crown prince’s schedule was busy, 3 times he tried but the Crown Prince was the busy one. Finally the opportunity came about and the meeting took place.” Now you got it. The Crown Prince was “the busy one”. But of course! Gianni … he was the busy one, not you!

And of course, Al Sheikh instantly makes it clear that more relevant things are afoot than FIFA’s Gianni: “FIFA president as everyone else also saw that Trump chose Saudi as his first destination on his first international trip.” There you have it! The Donald chose Saudi, which does not mean that The Gianni can chose Saudi at a whim! The Donald is “like, very smart…a stable genius” (his own words), even. And Gianni? Well, who needs an answer to that, really?

But all’s well that ends well: “Finally the opportunity came about and the meeting took place. It shows that the FIFA president was keen and understands the Crown Prince’s influence in decision making regionally and globally not only in sports, but economically and politically in the world.”

Wham! There you have it.

After this worthwhile excursion, FIFA’s Gianni knows three things:

  • the President of FIFA is the one that is honored to meet with our leaders (and not the other way around!)
  • Why? “Because our leaders are the most important or one of the most important decision makers in the world.”
  • And finally: “The FIFA president after meeting the King requested to meet the Crown Prince but the Crown Prince’s schedule was busy, 3 times he tried but the crown prince was the busy one”

England has the Special One, Saudi has the Busy One and FIFA has the……-One (fill in the gap at leisure).

Merry, merry everybody. 2018 kicks off just like 2017 ended. With lots of fun and Important- Ones galore.

James Dostoyevsky is a Washington-based observer of politics and sports. He can be contacted at moc.l1524625657labto1524625657ofdlr1524625657owedi1524625657sni@o1524625657fni1524625657