It’s over twenty years ago that outside the stands at Old Trafford, Joe Brown, then the chief Manchester United scout, introduced me to a quiet 16-year-old called Ryan Giggs and assured me with good reason that he was going to be a fine player.
What he didn’t tell me, and how could he, was that Giggs was also going to become a notable, if not notorious, Don Juan, whose picture would be splashed across the front pages of every newspaper in England, not to mention “Twittered” by some 75,000 people. Hardly worth spending £150,000 to avoid all that, though to Giggs, even that amount would no doubt be negligible.
“Let him who is without guilt cast the first stone,” as it says in the New Testament. I suppose the most cynical way to view the whole tawdry affair is to say that Giggs, however reluctantly, has broached the so-called 11th commandment, Thou Shalt Not Be Found Out. That he was so dramatically found out just days before the “massive” – to use a word so massively over employed by TV and journalistic pundits, not say players and managers – Euro Final just days beforehand made the whole sorry affair all the more seedily dramatic. Alex Ferguson predictably stood by Giggs and insisted he must play. Perhaps unsurprisingly since Giggs, whom in his heyday as a left-winger I thought to be the best of all British players – has had a glorious new, late lease of life, in central midfield.
If the Giggs Affair has effectively put an end to the fatuous and undemocratic farce of the gagging orders, it will have served some purpose. But to splash the sorry and sordid business across all those front pages at a time when the world is involved in a plethora of sombre dramas – Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan – seems to me a wanton flouting of priorities. In the last analysis, who, with the manifest exception of the traduced Mrs Giggs and Giggs himself, cares?
Certainly the Giggs Affair quite overshadowed the second Panorama BBC TV programme presented and investigated by the assiduous Andrew Jennings, author of that devastating book, Foul! in which the appalling Jack Warner, at whose feet not only the FA committee involved in the World Cup but even the Prime Minister and Prince William so shockingly grovelled – was exposed in all his chicanery.
Jennings had him bang to rights again on the latest programme, with a German ticket dealer telling us how he had paid the ineffable Warner vastly over the odds for a stack of World Cup tickets. The sheer fiasco of Sepp Blatter and the equally ineffable Bin Hammam (again, do you want to be shot or hanged?) crying “Not me, guv!” would be comical, were it not so utterly depressing. I hold little brief for the charmless David Mellor (no, I am sure he didn’t, as one cynical publicist pretended, wear a Chelsea shirt while cavorting with that young actress) but he did hit the nail hard on the head when, on Panorama, he asserted that the only thing to be done with FIFA is to destroy it and start all over again.
But, alas, that’s been all too true, since the dreadful Havelange manipulated Stanley Rous out of the FIFA Presidency in 1974. Rounding up the usual suspects, Jennings nailed Havelange for yet another financial “coup,” but what difference does it ever make. As for asking the so-called Ethics Committee to investigate Triesman’s charges just weeks before the coming election, perhaps it suggests that, against all the odds, Blatter actually has a sense of humour.
And now, FIFA sensation! Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner long seemed, in the vernacular, as thick as thieves. Close as could be in the upper realms of CONCACAF. But now Blazer has accused Warner and the Presidential candidate Bin Hammam, plus two minor Caribbean figures, of “violating FIFA’s code of ethics.”
Whatever kind of a fig leaf that may be. Not long ago, both Blazer and the present top executive at FIFA Jerome Valcke were called liars in a New York court by the woman judge, when trying to deprive Mastercard of their long standing World Cup contract, in favour of Visa. It didn’t stop Valcke rising to his present eminence. Now Blatter will presumably sail through the imminent election. But why has Blazer turned on the ineffable Warner after all these dubious years?
Meanwhile, at home, Abramovich has ruthlessly and predictably sacked Ancelotti. Picking the burnt out Torres time and again to placate the billionaire oligarch was always going to be a two edged sword. And as long as Torres remains as a virtual convalescent, what manager can thrive? Even Guus Hiddink.