Wednesday, 11 June 2014



MY No Grey Areas colleague, Andy Ritchie, often suggests there are some people in this world to whom you could not give a red neck, even with the application of a blowtorch.

He’s right on the money, of course. There are men and women who are resolutely resistant to self analysis and any degree of embarrassment. They refuse to acknowledge incriminating circumstances and appear purblind to damning evidence.

Sepp Blatter is one such pathetic person.

Not long ago, the Sunday Times revealed serious corruption at FIFA regarding the 2022 World Cup bid of Qatar: it was the embodiment of investigative journalism, an acclaimed antidote to the deliberations of the Leveson Inquiry.

Detailed, forensic stuff, worthy of any pathologist’s report, it thus became a contender to be the sports story of this, or probably any other, year.

Now, the stench of chicanery has never travelled far from the front door of football’s ruling body over the years - there have been regular, disturbing, fairly nauseous emissions of putrefaction along the way.

But an inspired Sunday Times team finally sourced the whereabouts of the alleged sewage farm, not to mention the alleged sewage farmer, one Mohamad Bin Hammam.

The baton of alleged guilt was figuratively handed on a serving platter to Blatter and his organisation. His next course of action should have been simplistic in the extreme. 

All he was required to do was his job, marshalling the forces of justice - and perhaps even retribution - in order that justice was served.

He should have thanked the Sunday Times for executing a job he and his minions should have been doing since he replaced the risible figure of Jose Havelange 16 years ago.

But, this was the world of FIFA, the corporate, corrupt, contaminated world of FIFA. Blatter and Co knew what lay underneath the old Axminster. Many others knew it. So, why would he wish to focus halogen lighting on the imperfections?

So, the Swiss septuagenarian responded with a message plucked from the gutter, if not the sewer: he accused British journalists of being discriminatory and motivated by racism.

Had this man no sense of shame, no sense of the differential between right and wrong? No, this was Joseph Blatter to whom we were referring. He exists in a fantasy land of his own creation and should be equipped with a technicolour dreamcoat.

Okay, if we must, let’s give some credit where it’s due. You cannot command the presidency of FIFA unless you possess the feral cunning of an urban fox.

Blatter believes himself to be the original Mr Fox. Importantly, he is familiar with the stultifying rules of political correctness. He feels that flourishing the racism card is the ultimate deterrent to those with investigative noses.

Accusations of racism tend to stifle and ultimately suffocate debate, because no-one truly wants to be subjected to this smear test. Just as important, however, the racist card also assists the guilty to nurture and pursue their perversities.

But alongside the foxiness there is also arrant foolishness. He has allowed his FIFA omnipotence to insulate himself against reality. I imagine that this is one occasion when the accusation is seen for what it is - a worthless and pathetic smokescreen.

Sponsorship and racism: words that are scarcely ideal bedfellows. The bedlam you may hear is the sound of the backers distancing themselves from his crass remarks.

How long before they distance themselves from the blue riband tournament itself.

And how long before those nice young men in their clean white coats come to take him away, after his latest diversionary tactic: interplanetary football? If he's serious, he's certainly inhabiting another world of delusion.

Whichever way you look at it, Blatter's miscalculation has been gross on a galactic scale.

It infuriates me that matters have arrived at this juncture. Today, we should be speaking about the 2014 World Cup which is kicking off in Brazil. We should be celebrating the feast that is upon us - and the behavioural patterns of the potential dinner guests.

What we want to know is: will Luis Suarez show on the world stage what he has been showing on the more parochial platforms of England? Can Andrea Pirlo begin to dismantle Roy Hodgson’s best-laid plans? And, could this be the ultimate coronation for Lionel Messi?

Yes, we should be concentrating wholeheartedly on the Beautiful Game. For the moment, until the action begins, there is a focus on its ugly sister. Or, to be factual, its ugly brother - that dreadful little martinet from Switzerland.

I must confess to a bit of jealousy hereabouts. How I would have loved to have been involved in all this. Until I retired through illness back in 2001, I was head of sport at the Daily Mail. We prided ourselves on penetrating the heart of matters, particularly in football.

Therefore, if we spotted anything of a dubious or indeed iniquitous nature, we used to kick backsides rhythmically and regularly. Such a policy was not flavour of the month in some quarters. Some people who should have known better were openly hostile.

I remember Howard Wilkinson, of the Football Association, confronting me as he emerged from the gents’ toilet at London’s Savoy Hotel. He had a question - as well as a gargantuan cigar - on his lips. “Obituaries, obituaries, obituaries. Whose obit is it going to be next?” he inquired.

“It might be yours,” I responded.

At a Football Writers’ dinner at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, I met the then Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier. I cannot say I was overly impressed, particularly when he began to harangue me about the way the paper approached football. “You don’t seem to like the game,” he said.

“The game itself is not a problem,” I retorted. “It’s just that I don’t like some of the people in it.”

That last sentence, more than ever, is applicable to a guy called Sepp Blatter. I trust they will hang him out on a favela clothesline very shortly.

He may be resistant to the threat of a blowtorch, but his dismissal is somewhat overdue.