Has there ever been a time when football has been so much in demand, even likely to affect a British general election, yet the people who run the sport are considered so incompetent, if not downright dishonest?
No, this is not a joke question but a very serious one. The jokey part of it is that once on the afternoon of May 29 in Zurich, the national associations re-elect Sepp Blatter for a fifth term as President, the 78 year old will cavort on stage possibly with a football as he acknowledges the hosannas of his followers like a medieval monarch. He has done that in the past and, as in 2002,
The Premier League cannot get it wrong? Or can it? You would have thought that with no English clubs in either of the European competitions the Premier League will be just a little bit concerned. But not Richard-Scudamore, soon to move from long standing chief executive to executive chairman.
My father used to say that public memory is notoriously short. He was referring to politics not football but that holds very true for the round ball game as well. And herein lies a contradiction. There is nothing that arouses greater fury in football, both among the fans and the media, than the hire fire policy of chairmen and the board of struggling clubs. The moan is that the money men who always know the price of everything and the value of nothing want instant success and just do not understand that success in football takes times.
Whatever happens in the FIFA Presidential election one thing is already clear. Sepp Blatter has split Europe wide open. The most powerful and richest confederation in world football, whose leagues dominate the game and whose prize competition, the Champions League, is the greatest club competition in the world, cannot agree on a candidate to oppose the Swiss. Already 11 of the 54 national associations of UEFA are publicly pledged to three different rivals of Blatter: Michael van Praag,
So why is it that, with just under two weeks to go, it has not been possible to find a candidate who can seriously challenge Sepp Blatter? Jerome Champagne, after a year of campaigning, may now not even get on the ballot, Prince Ali cannot win his own Asian confederation and, as far as the candidacy of David Ginola is concerned that sounds like a nice bookmaker’s wheeze.
The season of good will and cheer is always the season of the sack and the managerial changes we are seeing in the Premier League should come as no surprise. However Alan Pardew’s decision to leave Newcastle for Crystal Palace has raised many an eyebrow. The argument, much touted on twitter and the airwaves, is why move from a great club to one whose ambition can be never higher than to hope for a sustainable place in the Premier League?
On the wall outside DYPatil stadium in what is navi Mumbai, the city that has been developed beyond the narrow confines of the south of the island where I grew up, there is a poster which reads: Come on India, let’s football.
The row that has erupted over FIFA’s handling of the much trumpeted Michael Garcia report on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup means we are once again seeing a re-run of what is now sports oldest soap opera: how shall we reform FIFA? It is not often that bad movies get so many repeat showings, even on a dank, dull, evening in Bognor. But then this is FIFA – an organisation where the past is not a foreign country but one that is always being revisited.
The whole business of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, and when it should be held, has again emphasised why sport, more than any other business, must make sure that it arrives at its decisions after very careful deliberation. Now you may say surely that is true of everything we do. Yes. But sport faces a problem no other business, indeed activity, does. This is that by its very nature people who follow sport tend to make instinctive judgements.
It is impossible to feel any sympathy for Qatar. An oil-rich Gulf state which somehow manages to get the World Cup and then lavishes money to try and convince the world it can not only stage the event but contribute to a better understanding of the world of sport hardly qualifies for sympathy. The immediate response would be there are far worthier subjects to feel sorry for. Yet as Qatar continues to get a bad press we must ask ourselves what is Qatar doing wrong and can they ever get out of this terrible spiral of distrust and dislike?
Going up the property ladder, selling your existing home for profit and then moving to a bigger better home, is something we take for granted. But for football clubs finding a new home, or even making the existing one bigger is very often a nightmare and can cause enormous problems. If clubs are not careful they can go into ruinous debt which can threaten their very existence.
The Malky Mackay saga has once again brought racism and sexism in football back on the agenda. And in particular it has raised the question: why is it that the world’s greatest game is so integrated and seems so inclusive on the field of play but off it is “hideously” white, to use FA chairman Greg Dyke’s phrase. If there were any doubts about that last week’s launch of the Champions League once again displayed European football’s Janus face.
The Uruguayan polemicist and football fanatic Eduardo Galeano once wrote: “Tell me how you play, and I will tell you who you are.”
So now as the World Cup, in the country made for football and made by football, draws to a close it is worth asking what this World Cup has told us about football and about us. That such a question can be raised about what is essentially 22 men in shorts kicking a ball around shows us how football is seen in Latin America.
One of Roy Hodgson’s favourite writers, Stefan Sweig, killed himself in Petropolis, a town near Rio in 1942 despairing of where European civilisation and culture was headed. Now what has happened to Hodgson in Brazil does not bear any comparison with what Sweig was going through as the fight with Nazism raged in Europe with no definite indication that this evil could be defeated.
Those of us who write about sport often use absurd,