Minutes after chairing his first executive committee meeting as the seventh president in UEFA’s 62-year history, a suitably attired Aleksander Ceferin approached a lift on the lower ground floor at the luxury resort complex where the organisation’s top brass had been staying.
By David Owen
Thursday’s group stage draw provides the perfect illustration of why the Champions League needs reform.
Suddenly, strangely, it has all gone quiet. After days and weeks of eager anticipation about whether Gianni Infantino is being investigated for breaking ethics rules, Fifa continues to leave us all on tenterhooks.
When hundreds of television cameras zoomed in on the climax of Euro 2016, capturing Portugal’s elation and France’s despair, one man was conspicuous by his absence – just as he had been throughout the tournament.
The largest corruption threat to football is the one that its administrators frequently seem most reluctant to face aggressively. Match-fixing cannot be swept under the carpet but the anti-match-fixing fight does need more funding and the acceptance of objective benchmarks to evaluate the independence of the governing bodies in the front line.
Are we really to believe that the indiscretions of FIFA’s finance director Markus Kattner have only been discovered in the past few days? Do they really think that their member federations, the watching press and the rest of the football world are that stupid and will lap it up unquestioningly?
Gianni Infantino, less than three months into the job as the man chosen to lead FIFA into a new era of respectability, turned to his fawning converts and declared: “I can officially inform you here, the crisis is over.”
As Europe’s blazered football leaders filed out of Budapest following one of the shortest UEFA congresses on record, how many of them were examining their consciences?
After the seemingly endless rumors came the official announcement: at the end of the next European Championship the coach of the Italian national team will not be Antonio Conte. It is no surprise. The offer from Chelsea (about €21 million for three years) was too good once it arrived, while the not so good prospects for the Blues (Italian national team, not Chelsea) were not helped by Serie A giving the coach too little room for maneuver in preparing the team.
“Politics, these days, is no occupation for an educated man, a man of character. Ignorance and total lousiness are better.” Aristophanes, The Knights
There was of course no football 2,400 years ago when Aristophanes was writing his plays, and still less a FIFA or UEFA. But were the Old Comedian to be as popular a satirist now as he was then, he might be expected to use the same words to describe the people who have been governing our game for us as he used to describe the polis of ancient Athens.
The Panama Papers will very likely change the world of offshore finance forever. That football, its rights holders and its marketing agents have been using the same corporate and financial tools to avoid tax (sometimes legally) is no surprise. But what should be a surprise is that FIFA’s shiny new president has been so quickly dragged into the scandal.
When Sepp Blatter celebrated his 80th birthday this week in the bosom of his ultra-loyal family, perhaps with more than a touch of resentment at seeing his contribution to the game all but ignored during last month’s presidential hand-over, the man who replaced him was just completing his first week in charge.
Reflecting on the way FIFA history is being rewritten with its new reform championing president, one wonders if two weeks ago football (we’ll soon be calling it soccer) had its WMD moment.
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Juvenal, Satires
“Who watches the watchmen?” This question, first posed by classical writers thousands of years ago, is perhaps one we would do well to ask ourselves now, as civil liberties hard won in the second millennium are gradually eroded in the third.
Fortune favours the brave. Or in Gianni Infantino’s case, being in the right place at the right time.