FIFAgate: Here’s What I Think…

Well, since every two-bit sports hack has tossed in their proverbial tuppence-worth on this issue, I feel it’s my turn to join in! And you, dear reader, will have the honour of experiencing my relatively researched robust ramble.

Incidentally, this is the second article I have written for Scheidt’s Footballing Miscellany. My first one being an analysis of everything that has been going wrong at Aberdeen Football Club. My main finger of blame was pointed directly at manager Mark McGhee. The very next day after the article was published, Mr McGhee was sacked. Now, understand I am not suggesting that my ‘fingering’ had anything to do with his removal from office (that sentence does paint me in a rather Lewinsky-esque light). But if a similar coincidence was to occur after the publication of this article, you can expect to see a mass exodus from FIFA headquarters. You heard it here first! But I digress…

And the winner is… Eh?

“Hahahahahahaha take that you smug english f*cks!”

This was the Facebook status of a dear friend of mine, a mere minute after Sepp Blatter pulled Russia’s name out of the envelope in Zürich. Fortunately, the two of us haven’t had a conversation about the World Cup results, as I fear it may lead to bloodshed.

This = Not me.

Let me make my position very clear. I like England. Of course, as a Scottish football fan, I dislike the arrogance shown by many of the English media when it comes to the national game. But in general, I really do like England and English people. I’m not one of the Scots who’ve watched Braveheart too many times and are bigoted and xenophobic towards our closest neighbours. I love being Scottish, but I love Scotland in the same way I love my family – they’re retarded but they’re mine. Most importantly, I love being British. This is why I was so taken aback by my friend’s comment, and why I was disgusted by a column in the Evening Express newspaper, in which journalist Charlie Allan wrote…

“Clearly us Scots aren’t the only ones who dislike our neighbours south of the border!”

I hate this assumed stereotype that all Scottish people hate the English. And if my friend and I were to have a calm and measured conversation about our feelings on the result of England’s World Cup bid…it’d be about as calm and measured as the reaction to Boy George walking into a Ku Klux Klan rally (joke courtesy of Bill Hicks – R.I.P.).

Now, with that in mind, I was firmly in favour of England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Firstly because I would have loved to travel down to enjoy the World Cup first-hand. But most importantly, because I feel that the country that created football should have the right to host its biggest tournament more than once, in 1966. Germany, France, Italy and Mexico have all hosted the World Cup twice, with Brazil about to host their second one. Surely England should be among that list! I mean, Mexico are! In contrast to creating the sport, producing mariachi music and Speedy Gonzales shouldn’t fulfil enough criteria to host two World Cups!

So, why didn’t England succeed in their 2018 bid? The scapegoat most have been quick to blame has been the BBC. Three days before FIFA’s vote, the BBC broadcast an episode of Panorama where Andrew Jennings exposed members of FIFA’s executive committee as being corrupt and taking bribes.

Andrew Jennings - Who presented the brilliant Panorama

The programme was immediately criticised by members of the footballing community. It was believed that the programme, which was coupled with evidence uncovered in a sting operation by The Sunday Times, would be detrimental to England’s chances of securing votes from the very men being accused of corruption. And indeed, three days later, England received only two votes and were eliminated in the first round of voting. While the BBC have stood by their decision to air the programme, many have argued that it could have been aired after the result, causing it to have no effect on the bid. But let’s be honest. What would it have looked like if England had lost and then the Panorama programme was shown? England would have looked like bad losers. Spoilt brats who didn’t get their way. Nikki Grahame from Big Brother 7 (if you’re lucky enough to not be aware of Nikki, please go onto YouTube and search her name). And unfortunately, the reaction to losing has still had this effect, with calls for the entire FIFA voting system to be looked at, and suggestions that England withdraw from FIFA and set up their own international footballing federation. A suggestion that makes about as much sense as Boris Johnston being the mayor of London…so it may happen after all.

Russia – 2018

So, England lost in their bid to host the World Cup in 2018. As did the Holland/Belgium bid and, much more surprisingly, the Spain/Portugal bid. By process of elimination, then, that means that Russia won. Russia – the nation with the best league in the world… no, the Barclay’s Premiership is in England. Russia – a beautiful country with the best national team in the world… sorry, that’s Spain. Russia – the country with the best footballer in the world – Cristiano… no, that’s Portugal. Russia – a country who have produced some of the world’s best players and have appeared in the world cup finals on three occasions… that’s Holland, isn’t it? Russia – famous for art, culture and waffles… wait, that’s Belgium. Oh yeah, I remember now! Russia – the country famous for a terrible climate, corruption, a very loose understanding of human rights and free speech. Wait. They’ve got the World Cup? How did that happen??? “But the other bidding nations could host the World Cup successfully next month if they had to, don’t Russia need to completely renovate, like, the whole country?”…I hear you ask. Yes they do. They need to renovate three stadiums and build another thirteen, while at the same time building new airports and train stations (a complete overhaul of their entire transport system). But their bid won. How did that happen??? According to Panorama, you should look at the bank accounts of those FIFA executives.

Qatar - 2022. Really.

At the same time, the right to host the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar – a country whose national team are ranked 113th in the world. A quick summary of Qatar for those of who who haven’t got Wikipedia open in another tab… It can fit into Scotland 6.89 times… It is a country in which sex between two consenting males is punishable by up to five years in prison… Alcohol is strictly limited, and it is illegal to drink in public… There is little to no press freedom… It does not recognise Israel as a country… It is rife with “unpaid labour” and human rights problems… And this country has won the right to host the biggest sporting event in the world. It sounds as much fun as a pool party at Michael Barrymore’s house. You want to go and try to enjoy yourself, but there are obvious safety risks. So, it’s not exactly the first place you’d want to have a World Cup. And the fact that Qatar’s economy has vastly increased in recent years – while many of FIFA’s executive committee have proven to be corrupt – obviously has nothing to do with the decision at all.

All this shouldn’t come as a surprise, however. It’s not just FIFA that are corrupt, it is the whole of football. And it’s not a new thing either. You have managers taking backhanders, players not honouring their contracts, allegations against referees, etc. You have players cheating to unbelievable extent, something that would never be accepted in any other sport. Take for instance, the Harlequins Bloodgate scandal. It was a huge scandal for rugby. But how very different is that from a footballer diving to win a penalty, or feigning an injury to get an opponent sent off? In terms of action there is very little difference, but the reaction is considerably different. Despite campaigns against it, cheating has become a part of football. Certain players become known for it and become cult heroes with their own fans – look at Robert Pires during his time at Arsenal. A hero to fans of the Gunners, but a floppy-haired diving cheese-eating surrender monkey with as much right to be called an athlete as Sarah Palin has to being called a politician…to most others.

I don’t believe you, FIFA.

If FIFA were so concerned with “Fair Play”, they would use video technology to ensure fairness and the blatant cheating that goes on in the game. FIFA insist that we should rely on the referee and his officials. But they are only men, and men are fallible. Football needs to join sports like rugby, cricket and tennis, and embrace technology for the good of the game. It’d be the step in the right direction that the sport so desperately needs right now. That’d be if FIFA were concerned with “Fair Play” though, which blatantly they are not.

If this latest ‘scandal’ from the footballing world has done anything, it has simply added to the list of things highlighting the problems with our beloved sport. There is corruption and cheating from the bottom all the way to the top, and something needs to change. I will not pretend that I am astute enough to suggest what needs to change, but I am aware enough to realise that if things remain the same, then the future of football is a bleak one with scandal after scandal coming our way.

But don’t take my word for it. This is just my take. Look for yourself. The evidence is there for everyone to see. And this is just a snippet. This is Sharon Stone uncrossing and crossing her legs in Basic Instinct…in sporting corruption terms.

Jonnie Milne

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