Gary Lineker: Fifa politics left me feeling so dirty that I needed a good shower
Gary Lineker has revealed how his only experience of playing Fifa’s political game to try to help England’s 2018 World Cup bid left him “needing a good shower.”
Former England striker Lineker has also recalled how he and David Beckham discussed the fact their efforts may have been in vain over a late night hamburger ahead of the vote in 2010.
Lineker was drafted into the bidding team, which included Beckham, at the last minute to try to help get enough votes from Fifa’s 22 executive members to stage the 2018 World Cup.
The worst fears of Lineker and Beckham, however, were realised as England received only two votes and the World Cup was awarded to Russia.
That process is now being investigated as part of the Fifa corruption scandal, with Russia facing the threat of being stripped of the World Cup.
With Sepp Blatter resigning as Fifa president, the experiences of the 2018 World Cup bid has only underlined to Lineker that a career in football politics is not for him.
“I wasn't really involved in the bid, but the night before the two World Cup votes were announced, I was invited over at the last minute and asked to be nice, in a creepy sort of way, towards various dignitaries,” said Lineker at the launch of BT Sport Europe, the new home of the Champions League and Europa League.
“I don't like pretending to be nice and crawling up people's backsides for the want of a better phrase, and we were the only ones doing it.
“I was sitting having a burger with David Beckham at the end of the night, and I said to him, ‘Have you noticed we seem to be the only nation doing this? I've got the feeling it might already be done’.
“At the end, I had that sense of needing a good shower. I'm not a politicial animal, I don't really want to get involved in that side of the game.”
Prince William and David Cameron were also part of England’s 2018 World Cup bidding team. Asked how he felt about the fact they had all been lied to, Lineker added: “I don't think we were the only ones, but it was a strange experience seeing it first-hand.
“To be perfectly honest, Russia is a major football nation, they have never staged the World Cup before, so you can understand them getting 2018 – it's the other one (Qatar 2022) that is hard to explain. Whether or not they are able to have another vote about that one, I don't know.”
Lineker is a big fan of Uefa chief Michel Platini, but fears the Frenchman’s decision to vote for Qatar 2022 could ruin his chance of succeeding Blatter as Fifa president.
“I know Michel Platini, he a real football man who loves the game, which is an advantage,” said Lineker. “He's played at the very highest level, lived it all his life, he has a feel for it. But he also voted for Qatar, which might count against him.
“If you had told me two weeks ago that Sepp Blatter would be re-elected as Fifa president and the resign two days later, I would have been very surprised.
“Maybe people aren't surprised about the levels of corruption, which are quite staggering, and I'm not sure we should be delighted about that. It's clearly depressing to think it's been run the way it's been run for so long and you hope this is a seminal moment for the game.
“But it's going to take a long time to clean up the mess and we will need someone of unquestionable integrity to run the show and turn Fifa into a respectable organisation. It might take some doing.”
There had been speculation that Uefa could look to split from Fifa before Blatter announced his resignation, but Lineker believes international football should remain unified.
“I'm wary of breakaway movements and fresh starts because you run the risk of ending up like the boxing world, where you have several versions of the world title, so we are at a slightly worrying stage,” said Lineker.
“Who knows what is going to happen to the World Cup, which is a wonderful, wonderful event, loved by people all round the world, which is sadly run by people who shouldn't be in charge of it.”