The recent anti racist outburst by Sol Campbell, the BBC Panorama programme on racism in Ukraine and Poland, the decision of relatives of black England players not to go to Ukraine for the Euro tournament, the official advice given to black England fans to beware on Donetski, all add up alas to a horribly familiar picture. Which involves Russia, designated hosts of the 2018 World Cup at the expense of a far better qualified England; a picture of utter indifference on the part of both FIFA and now UEFA over the endemic racism in certain countries.
It became all too obvious when Russia, by hook crook or subterfuge, was awarded the World Cup that FIFA’s so called Kick Out Racism campaign was a monument to hypocrisy. Once again, my mind goes back to the preliminary ceremony before a 2006 World Cup game in Germany, celebrating the anti racism campaign. On the far end of the lined up Ukrainian team stood Oleg Bokhin, their manager, formerly an exceptional outside left. But, just weeks earlier, he had made a vitriolic attack on the presence of black players in Ukrainian football. Plainly, he was unabashed and FIFA just didn’t care. As for Russia, we know that racism in its football is endemic.
As so blatantly and crudely exposed by the treatment of that excellent Nigerian attacker, Peter Odemwingie. The bigoted supporters of Lokomotiv Moscow couldn’t wait to jeer and insult him out of the club. And when at length he took off with much success for West Bromwich, they put up a banner thanking West Bro, decorated with a banana. Before that we had the case of the experienced Dutch coach Dick Advocaat who admitted that, when manager of Zenit St Petersburg, he did not dare to sign a black player. Yet not a peep out of FIFA when Russia gained – not let us for a moment breathe the word bought – the World Cup. Kick Out Racism? Perhaps the slogan should be altered to, Back Up Racism.
In the foetid world of international football politics, where FIFA and CONCACAF both resemble sinks of iniquity, there is more scandal afoot. Huge, fat, 18 stone bearded Chuck Blazer, ex number two of the execrable Jack Warner at CONCACAF, defies the USA’s Internal Revenue Service, now investigating the vast sums of money he acquired in his reign at CONCACAF. “I’m not going to step down,” he thunders, “I’ve done an excellent job.” For football, or for himself? Meanwhile, defiant, he is taking advantage of FIFA’s convoluted rules by staying in office for another whole year. Unless, of course, the Revenue impugn him.
In the meantime, the odious, unrepentant Jack Warner, before whom even David Cameron shamelessly grovelled – Prince William being embroiled as well – when it was mistakenly hoped that Warner would give his World Cup vote to England – threatens explosive revelations once, in June, the Court for Arbitration has decided on the appeal of the ejected Bin Hammam against his life ban for bribery allegations, when he stood for the Presidency of FIFA. Against a consequently unopposed Sepp Blatter; who may not be sleeping too well at night, given that it is on record, not least in Andrew Jennings devastating book, Foul! that Blatter treated him almost as a cherished brother, desperate, plainly, for CONCACAF votes. The accusation that Warner grabbed for himself a Centre of Football Excellence in Trinidad, built with money from FIFA, rings all too many bells.
Blatter, in the meantime, seems dazed and confused, one moment deploring with some reason the practice of deciding games on penalties, then almost at once back tracking and insisting that penalties are “part of the game.” Still his murky predecessor and mentor, Joao Havelange, himself under examination now over the millions of dollars in bribes shelled out by the new defunct ISL organisation, stayed happily in office for 24 years, sustained by the scandalously passive members of FIFA.
Which reminds me that when Blazer and Jerome Valcke of FIFA, now suggested as a possible successor to Blatter, were branded liars by a woman judge in a New York court, trying to prise World Cup rights away from Mastercard in favour of Visa, Blazer remained in office and Valcke, after a very brief suspension, emerged as the chief executive under Blatter. So far as I know, there wasn’t even a whisper of protest from any member country. But then they’d given Havelange a free rein for all those long, corrupted years.
Beckhamitis, alas, seems to spread again. Fabio Capello suffered badly from it, giving the heavily tattooed Beckham a series of cheap caps for brief appearances. Now one finds supporters of the man, who should surely know better, trumpeting his claims to playing in the British Olympic team. Certainly he has those howitzer free kicks, those insidious crosses, still in his armoury. But for a good while now we know he has no real pace, will seldom beat a man or even try, though accusations that he doesn’t head the ball seem harsh. Nor did Stanley Matthews.