There seems every prospect that come October, FIFA will begin busily digging their own grave. It is then that the 27 members of the executive committee will vote on whether to stage the 2022 World Cup in Qatar during the European winter.
It is expected that they, among them Jim Boyce, the Ulster blowhard, will vote in favour of winter. Boyce very properly deplores the possibility, even were the Qatar stadia air conditioned, of staging the tournament in 50 degrees of heat. But seems no more concerned than the presumed majority of that executive committee that to make it a winter tournament would utterly disrupt the European season. A fact which seems not to trouble the man who should, given his role as President of UEFA, be leading the European campaign against it rather than backing it.
As he has, against all logic, supported and voted for Qatar’s World Cup claims from the first. I am quite sure Platini is acting out of honourable motives, a lot less sure of the Qatari themselves, but Platini on a variety of fronts has we as we know proved a misled and disastrous President of UEFA, utterly confusing the organisation of the tournament, having foolishly and carelessly tried to allocate it to Turkey, who had other fish to fry and now locating it in a hotch potch of finalists all over Europe. Of whom there will now be a bloated twenty-four, already a threat to the status and significance of the competition.
Already two of the most powerful European Leagues have predictably expressed their opposition to the idea of a winter tournament. The Bundesliga have already warned that the European Leagues might, as they should, force a vote to reopen the choice for the 2022 World Cup hosts. Which from the very first has given off a rancid smell. The Premier League for their part have called the winter idea “neither workable nor desirable.” True, they have yet to state that they would oppose it but surely that seems inevitable.
Now Boyce is asking for “common sense to prevail,” which I feel it probably will though his own idea of what constitutes it in this context seems wildly illogical. I foresee the major European countries lining up en masse to reject a winter tournament, which the Premier League has already declared would cause them chaos for three whole years let alone a single season.
In an ideal world FIFA would stick to their misaligned guns, the Europeans would withdraw, and either FIFA would relent and allow the tournament to take place in a logically selected country.
Or – which I think is desirable but somewhat less likely – the whole rotten Havelange poisoned organisation would disintegrate, with some kind of justice, integrity, decency and sheer common sense emerging for the first time since Stanley Rous was toppled as FIFA President in 1974.
Let me declare an interest. Some years ago, on Sky television, I worked harmoniously with John Inverdale on a weekly Sky TV programme on Italian football. A niche programme though to my astonishment, while it was running, minor though it was, I was constantly pursued for autographs by fans at matches. But as soon as I stopped that stopped too.
John was the director, and a professional pleasure to work with. Quite he could have made such an idiot of himself with his crass, cruel, gratuitous and utterly unfair comments on the Wimbledon winner, Marion Bartoli, who can even guess? Hers was a heartening and inspirational victory against heavy odds. And the fatuity of talking about her looks is surely emphasised – as no one else seems to have pointed out – by remembering that nothing as crude was said about that astonishing champion Martina Navratilova with her phenomenal eight Wimbledon championships, without the remotest claim – or, one feels desire – to be, Lord help us, a “looker.”
Inverdale however has arguably been fortunate in his foes. Notably in that much derided political mediocrity, the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller. Her pompous, self serving (she seems on the brink of political anonymity) vapid letter to Tony Hall, now head man of the BBC, with its spiteful undertone of “vengeance” on Inverdale, has excited the scathing ridicule it deserved. Not excluding references to the fact that a house in Wimbledon – of all places – where her parents lived, engendered her claims of £90,000 in expenses. Glasshouses, and all that.
Yes, John Inverdale was excruciatingly wrong, but with enemies like Maria Miller, who needs friends?
Jesse Carver gained no votes at all in the recent World Soccer poll of managers yet his achievements were, above all in Italy, remarkable. Made manager of Juventus, he won the Campionato immediately, only to be sacked when criticising the directors in a newspaper interview.
While at West Bromwich Albion he revolutionised the training. He would in due course manage Roma, Inter, Lazio, Genoa and Sampdoria till at last, forever resigning, he ran out of Italian clubs and retired to the South coast where he died in his 90s, a prophet without honour in his own country.
Curiously closed, a Liverpudlian who once played for Blackburn and Newcastle.
Rous, in my presence, offered him the England role in Rome in May 1955. He didn’t take it.