The Stench Of Filthy Lucre
I think it’s fair to say that not too many of us on here are huge fans of international football. That might be because,as Celtic supporters we can take a peripheral interest in football as a whole,but rarely does it engender the same passion that Celtic do.
Think about it. I surely can’t be in a minority of one that couldn’t give a monkey’s about how a former hero’s career progresses once he has walked through the door for the last time. I might make an exception for Henrik on that one,and possibly at a push,Stilyan. Apart from them,no. I don’t even wish them ill will. I’m just indifferent.
Sure,I’ll watch a match if it’s on in the pub. The same if I’m in the house and at a loose end. After all,I genuinely love the game. I remember watching Manchester City when they were the poor relations,not just in Manchester but in the game as a whole. I could watch Georgi Kinkladze all day,and how I wished we would sign him. Certainly he was within our reach,and would have lit up the stadium and the game as a whole,and we can all think of players like that in our time.
The Champions League? Well,mibbes aye and mibbes naw. When it really kicked into gear,probably its peak period of quality between the late 90s and the early 10s,it was a joy to behold. Now,so often,we see well-drilled teams intent on cancelling each other out. The fabulous Real Madrid Galacticos and the Guardiola-era Barcelona were just about the only teams I would make an effort to watch,the others I could catch on highlights elsewhere.
So,international football? I think the last time I attended a Scotland match was when Dalglish scored for us against Spain and Belgium in 1983. And we still didn’t qualify! I’m not sure that a friendly in Dublin on Good Friday counts,as that was due to restrictive licencing laws on the day. But I could usually be guaranteed to watch as much of the world cup as I could! Think about it,it’s the only football available for the best part of three months,with the best teams in international football slugging it out for the honour of holding that iconic lump of gold for the next four years? What’s not to like?
Well,for starters,FIFA decided to dilute the quality by increasing the quantity. There are now 32 countries in the finals stage-not that the increase has helped Scotland’s chances a great deal! Inevitably,that means that there are occasions where no-hopers will line up against the best in the world. And that rarely classes as a spectacle in my opinion. We want to see the best against the best,and around half of the initial 48 group stage matches hardly qualify for that. So that’s the first fortnight screwed then. I will say that I will increase my viewing towards the knockout stages of the tournament,but there are a lot of dead rubbers to contend with before that.
And then we come to the elephant in the room. The politicisation and sheer corruption at FIFA,first introduced by Joao Havelange nearly fifty years ago and then distilled into a fine art by his successor,Sepp Blatter. The man who funnelled development funds to certain countries and regions,and made sure that their delegates were beholden to him as a result. All very clever until he made the mistake of authorising those payments-most of which never made it to the causes intended-to be paid in dollars. The USA is none too keen on corruption being facilitated via its currency,and the FBI got involved. The biggest mistake though,might have been that the most corrupt of them all was the USA delegate,Chuck Blazer. The Untouchables and Al Capone all over again?
Sadly the new brooms brought in to clean up the stables soon proved to be little better-as we have seen. I have little doubt that they each went in there,in their innocence,with the full intention of doing what they were entrusted to do. Maybe it is true that money has its own smell,an irresistible scent that attracts the like-minded like bees round a honeypot. Now,we can’t blame the new regime for awarding the last two tournaments to Russia and Qatar. These were awarded in the death throes of Blatter et al. And we can hardly blame them,I suppose,for embracing the tournaments with their usual fervour-after all,they have TV rights and sponsorship deals to sell.
But I think there is reason to suggest that those in the seats of power at FIFA stick to their old mantra of keeping politics out of football. As they certainly have done by banning rainbow symbols,for instance! It is hardly their place to tell a sovereign nation how to run their affairs,after all.
All they ever had to do was offer anodyne statements of how much they were looking forward to another great tournament,secure in the knowledge that mistakes like this would never be made again. I mean.it’s not like you can reach the top of such an organisation without mastering the art of speaking at length and saying nothing?
Maybe Infantino should have thought of that,too late now. His speech was cringeworthy and embarrassing-to the extent that it achieved the opposite of its intention by highlighting the very things he was whitewashing.
A World Cup is a global event. It must never again be hijacked for political purposes,nor awarded by a small enclave of corrupted officials. And it should never again be played at this time of year,in the middle of a European season where most of the 831 players ply their trade. And certainly never in temperatures that most of us would cavil at even going for a walk.
They can make a start by having another go at cleansing those stables at FIFA. The stench is overpowering.