Tuesday 21 November 2017

O'Doherty: About time we showed FIFA the red card

Game over: A protest by the Avaaz organization in front of the Hallenstadtion in Zurich, Switzerland
Game over: A protest by the Avaaz organization in front of the Hallenstadtion in Zurich, Switzerland
Andy Kershaw
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Sports fans are a fickle breed. We might grumble, but ultimately we're happy to see our various teams play against dictatorships, theocracies and the kind of corrupt, failed states who should be on a UN watch list, not gaining international credibility by playing against proper countries.

Of course, when one thinks about sporting controversies in Ireland, the infamous 'apartheid tour' by the Irish rugby team in 1981 remains the apex of sporting hot potatoes. But we were also happy to become the first international team to play against Chile after the Pinochet coup in 1974, and we encountered Iran in a World Cup play-off in a stadium where no women were permitted.

But all of these transgressions pale into insignificance when placed in the context of FIFA's almost heroic lack of values.

The last few days have been immensely entertaining for anyone who loves football and hates FIFA and it's reptilian leader, Sepp Blatter.

At the time of writing, seven senior FIFA officials have been arrested in Zurich, but now that the FBI are involved, we are teased by the tantalising image of Blatter being forced to undergo the indignity of a good old-fashioned American perp walk. Oh what a happy day that would be, although it comes with its own attendant dangers. After all, if the average fan was to watch that old goat dragged down the street like the common little shyster he is, then I reckon some of us might laugh so hard we may actually vomit up a lung.

We've been too busy patting ourselves on the back for the last seven days to pay much attention to external developments but if ever there was a time for a breakaway from FIFA, then surely this is it.

After all, not only are we seeing mass arrests that look like something from Goodfellas, but we also learned this week that at least 1,200 Nepalese slaves - for that is what they are - have died in Qatar, while Russia has been exposed using prisoners to upgrade their stadia, because convicts provide cheap, disposable labour.

Incredibly, the thieves, touts and bagmen of FIFA don't really deny that they took bribes, they just deny that there is anything wrong with it, which displays a level of hubris that would surely make even the most corrupt county councillor weak with admiration.

By Thursday, Russia had further amped up their Cold War rhetoric by accusing the Americans of colonialism and racism, while several African delegates were quick to accuse the American authorities and British media of an 'Anglo-Saxon' obsession with the trifling matter of votes for sale.

The translation of Anglo-Saxon is, of course, 'white', and the subtext suggests that non-white countries don't care about corruption as much as we do. But why should they?

After all, most of these Third World countries which bloc vote according to Blatter's diktats are also in receipt of millions of dollars worth of aid, and we all know where that goes.

The money and the power are in Europe and the West and if tin-pot desert kips like Qatar want to play with the big boys, then they should be made to play by our rules.

The UN's time has long since passed, so how about a new political world order, involving only civilised countries - other countries can join when they have proved their commitment to democracy - which would also incorporate a new World Cup?

Of course, the usual hippies will complain that this is racist and exclusionary.

Yeah, well, better that than playing the greatest tournament of them all in the desert, or a country where gay visitors run the real risk of being murdered by the natives.


For those of us a certain generation, the name Andy Kershaw brings back a whole host of memories.

From bring one of the Live Aid presenters and helping to introduce World Music to a largely baffled audience, to his scarifying reports from the genocide in Rwanda, Kershaw is a kind of Renaissance man - if the Renaissance involved a load of voracious music nerds with an interest in world affairs.

To say he has had a chequered past would be an understatement. In fact, he's lived the kind of life that one of his beloved bluesmen would be proud of. After all, he went on the run during a highly publicised domestic dispute over custody of his kids and he spent time in prison for breaching a restraining order.

Kershaw brings his one-man show, based on his best-selling memoir No Off Switch, to the Howth Literary Festival next Saturday.

This is one not to be missed.

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