Can you hear Sepp Blatter sing?

If you’ve led a shamefully sheltered life, you probably don’t realise that the title of this piece is actually a variation on the first line of a popular football chant, used by the fans of a winning team to taunt their opposite numbers.

Decorum prohibits my quoting the second line verbatim, but the gist of it is that those losers have nothing to sing about. However, in Sepp’s case, the answer is a resounding yes.

For Sepp managed to get himself re-elected as head of FIFA, world football’s governing body. This in spite of a whole platoon of his closest associates being indicted in America for various degrees and types of corruption, from bribery to tax evasion.

Moreover, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch is confidently predicting that there’s more to follow, for only the surface of the football fraud has been scratched. Since the fraudulent sum already mentioned is $150 million, before long the total amount to have changed hands will approach the combined wealth of all the Russian oligarchs who, like Abramovich, have a direct stake in football.

The Russians have been supporting Blatter unequivocally, bringing to mind the proverb about birds of a feather. With their unerring nose for conspiracies aimed at them (this nasal sensitivity is otherwise known as paranoia), they’ve declared that all the charges have been trumped up specifically for the purpose of taking the 2018 World Cup away from Russia.

According to the Russian media, as part of that incredibly intricate plot, the FBI informer within FIFA not so much blew the whistle on the corruption as organised it himself. As Putin’s RT mouthpiece Soloviov put it, addressing the perfidious Yanks: “If you really installed your mole [into FIFA], this raises the question: Did you investigate the corruption or perpetrate it?” Indeed. No other question could possibly cross anyone’s mind.

The same gentleman screamed hysterically: “Corruption in FIFA? And when they talk about it [on Western TV], they show footage of Blatter and Putin chatting. Even though neither one has been implicated!”

Neither one has been arrested, rather. As to not being implicated, this is, how shall I put it kindly, not quite so.

Blatter is implicated by association at least. Just imagine what would happen to the president of, say, BP if seven of his vice presidents were arrested for fraud and seven more were expected to be nabbed within days. He’d be in a mad rush to tender his resignation before being sacked and, most likely, indicted.

As to Putin, while the US action is attracting all the attention, few have noticed an even more important parallel development. For the Swiss Prosecutor’s office has started criminal proceedings against “a group of unspecified persons linked to irregularities in selecting the countries to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.” In other words, Russia and Qatar. Interestingly, in this instance FIFA is mentioned as the victim rather than the perpetrator.

For old times’ sake we must presume that the two countries are innocent until proven guilty. But between us boys, does anyone really think there was nothing untoward about the selection?

One can just see it, the FIFA chaps pondering the possible options in a totally objective and disinterested way. England? No, too misty. France? No, too many temptations for the players to stuff themselves. America? No, what do they know about football?

And suddenly, as if out of the burning bush, comes the epiphany: “I have an idea! Why don’t we award the first one to Russia and the second one to Qatar?”

Everyone gets up, a spontaneous ovation breaks out. Why didn’t they think of that? Russia, with her corruption rating of 156 out of 175 countries, and Qatar, with its summertime temperatures around 50C. Unbeatable choices, both.

As if to prove their sterling credentials to host such events, the Russian Duma is about to pass a law calling for the use of slave labour in the construction of the World Cup sites. And Qatar is already using slaves for the same purpose, de facto, if not yet de jure.

Officially, their construction workers are visitors from India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Unofficially, as if to remind footballers of what can happen when people overexert themselves in extreme heat, they are dying at a rate of one a day. So far the death toll stands at about 1,000, but then it’s early days yet.

As to Russia, the sports establishment in that country is known for its corruption levels far exceeding those considered par for the course in one of the world’s most corrupt countries. Thus about $20 billion of the funds raised for the Sochi Olympics was pilfered by Putin’s cronies with hardly an eyebrow raised anywhere.

Anyway, let’s not be churlish about it. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Mr Blatter on his re-election. Well-done and well deserved, Sepp!  




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