Gary Lineker had every right to launch a ferocious attack on the malfeasance and corruption of FIFA, with its World Cup sell out to Qatar; that putrescent little country which now is known to harbour terrorist leaders.

The devastating recent Sunday Times investigation made it perfectly clear that largely through the notorious Bin Hammam, Qatar almost literally bought the 2020 World Cup; perhaps for as little as a few million pounds.

Blatter deserved all Lineker contemptuously said about him; yet when all is said and done, this is alas a question of spitting into the wind. Lineker is a salient figure in the game, both as an excellent former player, a leading World Cup goal scorer, but also now as an accomplished television pundit, presiding over a Match of the Day panel which will now inevitably be weakened by the loss of the photogenic and relaxed presence of Alan Hansen.

But with the deepest respect for Gary, Franz Beckenbauer is a far greater eminence on football, both as a player, the teenaged inventor of the attacking libero and hence Total Football, and the manager who won a World Cup with Germany. And Beckenbauer unless he can surmount alarming evidence, had thrown in his lot with the Qataris.

It is now on record that he has had meetings with Bin Hammam in Qatar and Europe and that he has been the guest of Bin Hammam in luxurious circumstances in that country. Summoned to a meeting with Michael Garcia’s FIFA investigation, he at first refused and in consequence was banned from attending the 2014 World Cup finals, then relented and said that he would co-operate. Since when, nothing has been heard.

Meanwhile we are waiting, though hardly with bated breath, for Garcia’s report on Qatar and corruption. Already invalidated by the fact that it was completed before the revelations in the Sunday Times.

In passing, one must wonder why FIFA brought such pressure on him to complete his report before the World Cup began, knowing perfectly well that it would be many weeks before it could be presented. In these circumstances, surprise, surprise, it could at worst be a whitewash, at best a response to incomplete evidence. FIFA is surely beyond redemption.

Blatter, who has the effrontery to stand for a fifth Presidential term, can successfully bleat as he did in Brazil of “racism” to his clientele of minor and marginal countries, each absurdly with its single vote, just like the major powers in the game.

We also now know that a security expert has warned that any terrorist attack in tiny Qatar during a World Cup would do appalling damage given the restricted area and the limited space between the stadia. The idiocy of staging the tournament in winter, which to his shame UEFA’s inept President Michel Platini supports, would make no difference to that. And then there is 2018 and Russia…


Howard Webb has retired from refereeing to a volley of plaudits in which I fear I am unable to join.

NIgel de jong xabi alonson howard webb

Nigel De Jong plnats his boot into the chest of Xabi Alonso, while Howard Webb looks on.

For me, he seriously and indisputably failed his true test, failing in the 2010 South African World Cup final to expel Holland’s Nigel De Jong for his appalling early studs up foul on Spain’s Xavi Alonso, doomed to play in pain for the rest of the match.  While a couple of shocking challenges by the Dutchman Mark Van Bommell surely merited expulsion.

In the first instance, it is plain that Webb didn’t want to “spoil” the Final. But rules are rules, ethics are ethics and it is arguable that spoil it he did.

Two previous English referees took a World Cup Final with far greater distinction. In 1950 – yes I know it wasn’t officially the Final in Rio, but it was the decisive game – the Southampton schoolmaster George Reader kept exemplary order in the potentially explosive game in which Uruguay against all the odds, defeated Brazil 2-1 in front of a crowd of 200,000; which in the event behaved itself commendably.

In 1974 the Wolverhampton butcher Jack Taylor took impressive command of a potentially explosive Final in Munich between West Germany and Holland; though being the honest man he was, he would later admit that he was wrong to rule out Gerd Muller’s goal for offside (he, of course, did get the winner.)

In 1954 Yorkshireman Arthur Ellis made a brave job of keeping order amidst the mayhem of the so-called Battle of Berne between Hungary and Brazil.

Odd to think that only a year earlier – and I have never before disclosed what England’s then manager Walter Winterbottom told me – the England players were calling Ellis The Yellow Rat after the way he had refereed the match against a so called Buenos Aires eleven in that city (it was, in fact, virtually the actual Argentina team.)

In Berne, however, Ellis showed commendable courage.


Wayne Rooney as captain? Of Manchester United even of England? With his record of indiscipline? Sent off in the World Cup finals of 2006 in Germany for a crude assault on Portugal’s Carvalho, though admittedly not fully fit.

Sent off in Montenegro in a European qualifier, which cost him the first two England games in the subsequent finals.

Captains don’t matter much in modern football, but there are limits.