Sport Soccer

Sunday 17 December 2017

Colour of money the only one that counts in FIFA Neverland

Dion Fanning

I think it's perfectly clear that Sepp Blatter is not a racist. Sepp Blatter believes in nothing. Racists have an ideology. It's a warped, twisted and poisonous ideology but they believe it.

The supporters of the English Defence League, for example, believe in the hatred they preach. They bus around England making the lives of ordinary Asian men and women miserable and they have been doing it when it was neither popular nor profitable.

Racists, on the whole, have shown murderous commitment to their beliefs over the years.

Sepp Blatter believes only in himself. He is football's Don King. "King looks black, lives white and thinks green," Larry Holmes said. King promoted many black fighters who thought he was championing them and advancing the cause when Don King was championing them but advancing too the cause of Don King.

Under Blatter, FIFA have taken many initiatives on racism. Yet it is legitimate to wonder if these were done because Blatter felt it was right or to secure the support of the countries that have traditionally backed Blatter. He has ruled FIFA with such astounding cynicism that there is no room for anything in his worldview but plans for his own advancement. Racism would be an unnecessary distraction from Blatter's aims.

After all, it was only a week ago that FIFA were claiming again that sport and politics don't mix, something which is a cliché and also a lie.

The lie was revealed last week in the reaction to Blatter's comments. Sport and politics had to mix to remind Blatter that racism remains an issue and that his words have consequences.

Blatter belongs to a world that thinks words and languages are just devices to make the next sting sound plausible. Corporate language exists as an emollient, a soothing noise to preface the closing of a deal. Nobody wants to be held to anything so words are most useful if drained of all meaning.

Last week, he intended, as he intends every week, to act only in the furtherance of corporate bullshit. In the past, he has said pretty offensive things about women and the gay community but the reason Blatter is not fit to lead FIFA has nothing to with loose or preposterous comments, it goes deeper than that.

Sport and politics must be separated by FIFA's president so that sport and money can mingle. Less politics means more revenue streams and that, ultimately, is all that concerns Blatter.

Blatter was spinning a fiction last week. It was the fantasy world he believes in where football has made the world a better place. FIFA live in a version of Neverland and last week, in his denial, Blatter sounded like Michael Jackson.

As he moved from interview to interview he repeated his strange philosophy. Presumably, his people were ushering him from one room to the next, telling him "that went well, stay on message". They'd have told him to carry on advancing this idea that the football field is a sacred space where everything can be solved with a handshake between gentlemen.

They thought that would play well in the boardrooms. Instead he offered a glimpse of how far gone he is and when he got into trouble, FIFA released a picture of him hugging a black man, Tokyo Sexwale.

And yet he did something useful too. Blatter's goal is to remove football from society and place it in the clutches of its corporate sponsors. The World Cup with its parasitical structure is at the apex of this. Host countries provide a backdrop but if it made more money they'd play the tournament in front of a blue screen in a film studio and use CGI for the crowd. That is essentially the idea of the World Cup in Qatar. Last week society fought back.

Yet Blatter was not Steve Williams, who is still carrying Adam Scott's bag despite saying he wanted to "shove it up that black asshole", when talking about Tiger Woods.

Blatter's words were not as bad as Williams' yet Williams is still out there putting it all behind him while Blatter squirms.

His name is in the same sentence as racism and that is bad enough, especially if you're Blatter.

Arsene Wenger made some interesting points in the aftermath of the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand affair. "I do not think that in sport racism is basically a problem, because you are rewarded on merit. However, in society I still think there is some job to do, and we are not at the end of it. But in sport overall, I don't think it is a problem."

Wenger has received the most vile abuse which he likened to racism but because it's personal rather than racial, it is more easily tolerated. He has questioned that tolerance but in general his comments were ignored, even when he noted, rather surprisingly, that "there's a real debate to how much credit you can give to something that is said on the pitch in a passionate situation. In a passionate situation inside the game -- it doesn't mean that you can say anything -- you are not always politically correct on the football pitch."

These words were barely noted because Wenger is a thoughtful, considered man who is clearly neither cynical nor a racist. Blatter, I suspect, couldn't have got away with them.

Wenger also said there was a line you didn't cross. If the allegations against Luis Suarez and John Terry are proved, then they crossed that line.

The danger with Blatter's comments -- and even more so with Gus Poyet's comments that Patrice Evra was "crying like a baby" -- is that players will feel they must put up with racist abuse if they want to be considered a man in a football world which has many spurious notions of manliness.

Suarez has acknowledged saying something -- "I called him something his team-mates at Manchester call him" -- and the case will hinge on what it was, what was meant by it and how it was perceived.

Reports last week said that Liverpool feel Suarez has been charged because of this admission. It may be that for telling the truth in a world full of liars Suarez has to go before the FA or it could be proved that he said much, much worse.

These are matters with the most profound consequences. Blatter's abysmal intervention demonstrated only the damage he has done to football.

Sunday Indo Sport

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