Setting side minor issues – Chelsea putting Andre Villas-Boas out of his gravel-throated misery, Tottenham succumbing to the ‘England Effect’ – the serious place to be over the weekend was Bagshot in Surrey, south-west of London.
Bagshot is home to Prince Edward and its Pennyhill Park Hotel is occasional home to the England rugby team before big games. The latter venue has now earned a place in FIFA folklore after events before, during and after Saturday’s annual meeting there of the law-making International Football Association Board.
The fun and games began on the Friday evening as FIFA’s ‘team’ – president Sepp Blatter, secretary-general Jerome Valcke, vice-president Angel Villar etc – assembled along with the chief executives and/or general secretaries of the four British home nations.
This was when Valcke, ‘doorstepped’ by a small media contingent, let his impatience and frustration with Brazil’s filibustering politicians boil over. The 2014 World Cup hosts, he suggested, needed “a kick up the arse” in terms of both preparations on the ground and the interminable process over coming through with the World Cup Law.
Cut to the next morning and the IFAB Eight rattling through the agenda:
**Goal-line technology will be approved by a special meeting in Kyiv on July 2 assuming the two shortlisted Hawkeye and/or GoalRef systems withstand final testing;
**The British four were cleared to undertake a two-year experiment with rolling substitutes in junior football;
**Confirmed that a goal cannot be scored directly from an ‘uncontested’ dropped ball;
**Approved the optional use in leagues by referees of a ‘vanishing spray’ to delineate the 9m-mark at free kicks.
**Approved the wearing of a specifically-designed headscarf by Muslim women footballers
**Noted the withdrawal of a proposal to permit use of a fourth substitute during extra-time;
**Referred, unresolved, the issue of the ‘triple punishment’ (on penalties) back to the assortment of working groups, task forces and committees.
The previous ban at international level of the headscarf was reversed after what everyone praised as “fantastic” presentation by Prince Ali of Jordan, a FIFA vice-president less than a year. FA chairman David Bernstein also earned due credit for ensuring, as host chairman of the meeting, that the issue was given full discussion time.
Alex Horne, general secretary of the FA, was buoyantly reeling off the decisions and fielding associated questions when first reports came through from Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo that Valcke’s comments had set a FIFA cat among the Brazilian pigeons.
Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo had hastily summoned an early-morning press conference to object to the colloquial nature of Valcke’s comment. Rebelo declared that he and his government would no longer deal with the FIFA secretary-general (who is due in the country again next Monday).
Valcke, asked to comment, responded with a French term which translated only aproximately as “puerile.”
The Brazilian media, taking its indignant cue from Rebelo, has reacted with outraged hostility . . . all except the outstanding and independent Juca Kfouri, a long-time critic of Brazilian football supremo Ricardo Teixeira (Some reports claim Teixeira decided NOT to resign as head of the CBF precisely because his Kfouri had forecast he would).
Kfouri, propounding his latest conspiracy theory, noted that “Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff does not speak to Teixeira who does not speak to FIFA president Sepp Blatter whose secretary-general, Jerome Valcke, now will not be speaking to Aldo Rebelo.”
“This could,” suggests Kfouri in one of his latest blogs, “be the beginning of the end of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.” And why? “Because it is well-known that FIFA would love to shift the 2014 World Cup to England to make peace with the English.”
You couldn’t make it up . . . could you?
Bagshot has a lot to answer for.
By Keir Radnedge