A generation from now, naughty children around the world will be hushed into submission by whispers of a hideous and sinister figure from the darkest corner of history. Disobedient little ones will tremble at the mention of his name, balk at stories of his villainous deeds and offer prayers that wherever he is now it’s a place far, far away. “Eat your greens,” parents will plead, “Or Sepp Blatter will come for you in your sleep.” The global youth will enter a golden age of nutrition.
He-who-must-not-be-named took a further step towards enshrining himself forever in history as the thing that goes bump in the night with more clumsy sound-bites on the Brazilian crisis earlier this week.
A couple of gems glimmer: “This is not our problem, it is a Brazilian problem.” To be fair to Blatter he is at least practicing what he preaches, fleeing the country last week to attend the U-20 World Championships in Turkey and leaving the Brazilian’s to ‘their problem.’ Equally headline-worthy was the President’s assertion that “FIFA has come out of this stronger, with [its] image enhanced.” There’s a flicker of truth to this if we consider what the governing body has been up to over the last 12 months –if FIFA’s image is that of a self-serving boys’ club engineered to further the business interests of its Executive Committee then the last two weeks in South America have enhanced it in glorious high definition. So you have to say, really, fair game Sepp.
In fact maybe it’s about time we all started being a little fairer in our judgments of the Brazilian uprising. Or at least broadening our horizons when thinking about the country’s immediate future and its relationships with its government, with FIFA and with the game it loves. Brazil is a country with a mess on its hands and with the World Cup still a year away it’s difficult to see how the situation won’t worsen before signs of improvement can be seen. The Brazilian voters are engulfed in a fury that is unlikely to temper until after FIFA have packed up and left but through the riots, the tear gas and the damning press reports, has the time come for a real discussion about what’s next for football’s most successful nation? Broaden the debate and we might even find that FIFA aren’t quite the noxious presence we’re so ready to believe.
Much has been made of the $13billion of public investments made in preparations for the big event next summer whilst basic education, transport and welfare provisions fail to grow and FIFA cream off a healthy $4billion in tax-free profit from the tournament. The people, disenfranchised and suffering, need someone to blame and the football authorities are the most conspicuous target for a reaction, but FIFA’s role in the World Cup is in effect little more than the glorified head of a franchise. The money that Blatter and co will collect as profits is really just the money that the host nation pay to hold the franchise for a finite time – to use one of the most recognised brands in the world to attract visitors, attention and investment to their shores. After that, the whole thing becomes a distinctly domestic affair.