Applause for Sepp Blatter! Never did I think I would be making such an appeal, but now to my astonishment I am. For Blatter has stood out forcefully and logically against the crazed European Championship plans of Michel Platini, president of UEFA, once a great footballer but now an increasingly great disaster as president of UEFA.
Blatter is all to correct in accusing Platini of destroying the European Championship with his deranged plan to stage the next 2020 finals of the tournament in thirteen different European cities. This in essence because Platini thoughtlessly and ineptly banked on Turkey as the hosts when the Turks plainly had other sporting commitments.
So the daft thirteen, count them thirteen, country tournaments now proposed is a desperate compromise; if even that. “Such a Euro,” declared Blatter with total justification, “lacks heart and soul. A tournament should be played in one country.” Ideally, yes, though Blatter somehow seems to forget that the latest European finals were actually played in two countries, Poland and Russia.
They have fragmented the 2020 tournaments, pursued Blatter, “so it is not a European Championship anymore. It has to have a different name.”
Lord alone knows what; Platini, in the grand tradition of Joao Havelange and indeed Blatter himself, had already bloated the entry to absurd numbers.
So would you rather be shot or hanged? Would you rather the 77-year-old Blatter who bears such a charmed presidential life at FIFA, quit as he had promised in 2015 or, as he adumbrates, may stay on; presumable to keep out Platini.
A German journalist as we know once scathingly told me after a match in Miami, “Sepp Blatter has fifty new ideas every day and fifty one of them are bad.”
How many bad ideas does Platini have? One of the worst was his backing for Qatar’s ludicrous bid to stage the World Cup, and his support for the absurd idea of playing it through the European winter rather than in the intolerable Qatar heat of summer. Yet that insane idea, with all the turmoil it would wreak on European club football, now seems an actual runner.
Unless FIFA’s new anti corruption executive can prove what is surely so manifest, that there was very dirty work at the crossroads in Qatar getting their way. Of course Platini himself is as clean as a whistle. Reminding one of Humbert Wolfe’s old lines:
There is no need to bribe or twist
Thank God the British Journalist.
But seeing what the man will do
Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.
Platini does have an official lap dog in the form of the misguided but obedient Gianni Infantino, UEFA’s general secretary who bleats; “It will be a Euro for Europe which will bring the tournament to fans in the whole of Europe, not only one country.” No comment.
The controversial withdrawal of Rio Ferdinand from an England squad which has difficult times ahead next week in Montenegro, who happen to possess two of the most dangerous strikers in Europe, Mirko Vicinic of Juventus and Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina, emphasises the lack of English centre backs now John Terry has gone.
It hardly astounded me that Ferdinand decided to withdraw, however unsatisfactorily it was done. Strangely, no one seemed to mention the faux pas by Roy Hodgson when he embarrassingly told people on a tube that for his part, Ferdinand was past it as an international.
But why so few contenders now that Terry was so prematurely and superfluously shorn of the England captaincy by David Bernstein, well before the Anton Ferdinand case came to court. Terry exonerated in magistrates’ court was subsequently punished by the FA, and his following withdrawal from international football was understandable; but was it unavoidable, and who can command the England defence as he did?