As regular readers may know, I am sceptical about sport’s ability to bring doping by top-level athletes under anything resembling control. Equally, the spectre of a complete pharmaceutical free-for-all is, in some respects, so disturbing that I would concede we need to be certain we have exhausted all avenues before we all, to borrow a phrase used last week by Independent Commission chair Richard Pound, “go home”.
“For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Mary’s Song, Luke 1:48, King James Bible
The meteoric rise of Southampton has been lauded by many as one of the truly great football achievements of our times. As recently as 2011, the 32,505-seat St Mary’s Stadium was home to a club in League One, England’s third tier.
We may be heading towards a tipping-point in the globalisation of football. Actually, that is not quite exact: we may be heading towards a tipping-point in the Europeanisation of world football culture. What I have in mind is the point when the big European leagues – Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A – start to earn more from international rights to broadcast their matches than domestic rights.
Francois Carrard may well be a thoroughly decent man with thoroughly decent principles. But just when he had the opportunity to prove to an increasingly sceptical outside world that he was the right man to enact robust change at FIFA and herald a brand new dawn of transparency and credibility, he came up woefully and depressingly short.
“Pacience is an heigh vertu, certeyn, For it venquysseth… Thyneges that rigour sholde nevere atteyne.” Geoffrey Chaucer, the Franklin’s Tale
The Franklin was the 20th of Chaucer’s pilgrims to give his tale and, like so many of his fellow travellers en route to Canterbury, he gave forth on the secrets of success in love. Thus did England’s earliest literary great teach us a lesson about the virtues of patience.
It is doubtless not the smartest move to begin a column you hope one or two people might actually read in the style of an IQ test or a maths exam. Just this once, however, I am going to chance it.
Sepp Blatter’s revelation that there was a deal in the FIFA executive, and in particular with Michel Platini, to vote for Russia for the 2018 World Cup and Qatar for 2022 has raised a hue and cry that the vote was a fix with Greg Dyke demanding the return of the £21 million England spent on the bid. The assumption is that the vote was bent and therefore the election invalid.
So now we know who’s in and who’s out. A list that at one stage comprised only two candidates suddenly burgeoned to eight – or rather seven after the David Nakhid debacle – in the final hours before the deadline last Monday with the anticipated rush of last-minute applications.
Everyone knows that putting living things in a vacuum is not to be advised. Apparently the tongue dries up and becomes covered in ice as consciousness is lost. Expulsion of digestive gases causes unpleasant things to happen with bodily fluids. The entire body then swells like a balloon and eventually the subject suffers fatal cardiac arrest. It is very nasty indeed.
The clock is ticking and the behind-the-scenes horsetrading is in full swing. But like a canny game of poker, nobody is revealing their hand until they are sure of their ground. With Monday night’s deadline for FIFA presidential candidates fast approaching, cards are being clasped tightly to chests in anticipation of who will emerge as challengers for Sepp Blatter’s crown.
“Ah! There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Jane Austen, Emma
Jane Austen’s fourth novel was published on Christmas Day in 1815 the Vienna peace accord had brought the Napoleonic wars to a close. With it began a century-long era of British commercial dominance through an empire whose roots had already begun to take hold with territories in Newfoundland, the Caribbean, west and South Africa, India and Australia.
One word dominated this year’s Sportel event in Monte Carlo. That word was China. The explanation for this can be encapsulated in one word as well. That word is money.
“Il n’y a pas le feu au lac” – “The lake’s not on fire.” Swiss saying
If the famous Lake Geneva is not painting the sky with flames – and, quite obviously, it never has nor will – it’s said to be difficult to rouse a Swiss to any sense of urgency. Other French-speaking nations believe that in the land of the cuckoo clock and precision watches, time moves slowly.
The slick first public appearance of Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool seems to have caught English media and football fans by surprise, and has already made him a favourite with many.
Michel Platini has always presented himself as unique. That he was a unique footballer cannot be doubted although the fact that he could not guide his country to a World Cup win means for all his great achievements as player he will always remain to an extent the nearly man, not quite in the class of Franz Beckenbauer. But it is his role as administrator in the last decade that raises questions about why and how he was ever considered a football administrator in any way different to the less than reputable bunch who have governed the world game for so long.