No-one could possibly argue with Wembley being chosen as host for the climax of Euro 2020. England’s national stadium is among the finest in the world while the country had the best bid and has not held a major football tournament since 1996. But anyone who believes there was no politics involved in last week’s decision by UEFA’s executive committee should think again.
Two months ago, when UEFA president Michel Platini was still weighing up whether to run for the top job in world football, it became abundantly clear in the build-up to the FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo that Europe was massively outnumbered in its opposition to a fifth term for Sepp Blatter.
So why did Platini not declare there and then that it was too risky to take on the wily old Swiss? It’s a fair question and one Platini was asked about when he finally announced,
The recent reshuffle within the corridors of power at the South American confederation, Conmebol, following the death of its FIFA vice-president Julio Grondona, made for interesting reading. Not so much because of the personnel involved but because of the political structure that was put in place with regard to FIFA representation.
By Andrew Warshaw
July 9 – In this most extraordinary and unpredictable of World Cups, nothing even came close to the humiliation of brutal proportions that unfolded in Belo Horizonte. Anyone who has watched Brazil during the tournament knows that the squad, for all the expectations, was full of deficiencies, a far cry from the great Brazilian teams of the past.
It was the most eagerly awaited of FIFA’s daily World Cup media briefings and the questions came thick and fast. Why, asked one highly respected news agency reporter, was FIFA preaching zero tolerance towards racism when zero action on the ground was in fact the reality?
It was a fair point but few, if anybody, expected the two distinguished members of the panel to provide such diametrically opposed responses.
Sometimes, quite fairly,
Let’s be realistic. Not many of us expected for one moment that one of the greatest dynasties to grace the game would actually be able to clinch an unprecedented fourth straight major crown.
After all, no European country has ever won the World Cup on South American soil. And not since 1962 had the reigning world champions retained the title.
But by the same token, few believed that the reign of Spain would come to such a shuddering halt before the end of the first week –
As dusk fell over Sao Paulo’s spanking new stadium towards the end of the first half of the World Cup’s eagerly awaited kickoff, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his organisation must have felt the same as the rest of us.
Amidst a sea of yellow and a cauldron of noise, here was an opening match full of entertainment and adventure in contrast to the cautious, cat-and-mouse approach that so often fails to deliver at the start of the biggest sporting show on earth for fear of errors being made and confidence being damaged.
When Sepp Blatter took to the stage during the gala opening of FIFA’s Congress in Sao Paolo and strutted his stuff with one of Brazil’s most glamourous models, it rounded off an eventful day for the 78-year-old FIFA president.
But not one that went entirely his way.
After a tub-thumping round of self-promotional speeches to his loyal followers among five of FIFA’s six regional confederations, and hearing gushing messages of support come flying back,
There is nothing like a western-orchestrated attack on one of its member federations to put Asian football’s nose out of joint and provoke a strong response.
Over the past few days, both the head of the Asian Football Confederation, Sheikh Salman Ebrahim El Khalifa, and Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, Asia’s Olympic supremo, have joined forces to roundly condemn the corruption allegations being hurled at Qatar over its 2022 World Cup bid.
For three and a half years, ever since FIFA president Sepp Blatter opened the proverbial envelope and pronounced the word “Qatar” to a tense auditorium in Zurich and millions more following proceedings worldwide, hardly a week has gone by without the hosts of the 2022 World Cup being forced on the defensive amid a spate of corruption claims.
Time and again, just when they think the furore over their fourth round landslide victory in December 2010,
Football, as we know, is often all about fine margins. Just ask Atletico Madrid. Whilst no-one can possibly condone the ridiculous behaviour of their otherwise admirable coach Diego Simeone when he lost his cool as victory slipped agonisingly away in Lisbon’s Stadium of Light last weekend, let’s not underestimate what the Spanish capital’s so-called poorer sister achieved over the season as a whole.
Real Madrid finally collected their 10th European crown after 12 years of pain –
The words were worthy enough, the message unequivocal. But the real intentions were cringingly obvious to anyone who has followed Asian football politics.
Last week’s attempt by Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa’s to mark the first anniversary of his leadership by focussing on his so-called achievements served only to highlight the unedifying rift that continues to divide his increasingly fractious organisation.
Ever since he took over last year,
How much more ugly can the divisions within Asian football become? In a couple of weeks’ time, Jordan stages the latest Soccerex football business conference for the game’s movers and shakers but it does so against the backdrop of festering resentment and unsavoury internecine warfare.
The recent decision by FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, head of Jordanian football, to issue an open letter to the entire Asian football membership denouncing Asian Football Confederation chief Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa for trying to mastermind his downfall by playing politics took most observers totally by surprise.
A week has now gone by since one of the game’s most high-profile managerial sackings – and what have we learned?
Only, perhaps, that football, far from being “just a game”, as many traditionalists would love to believe, is in fact the most ruthless of businesses. And that the cash-rich Premier League, supposedly the Holy Grail for any coach worth his salt, is the most ruthless league of them all.
Just as the cavernous conference hall at Astana’s Palace of Independence was being cleared away and the delegates from 54 countries were being chauffeured to the Kazakh capital’s airport past dozens of weird futuristic-looking buildings, in a side room Michel Platini unbuttoned his jacket and leaned back in relaxed, almost triumphant mood.
The president of UEFA knew the job had been done, that he had pressed all the right buttons during his organisation’s annual congress and received the support he needed to carry on leading his flock.