“Reptilian utterly ruthless” is how in a devastating article, the Daily Telegraph columnist Oliver Brown describes the ineffable general secretary of FIFA Jerome Valcke. Whose recent visit to Qatar where against all logic and morality the World Cup finals of 2022 are still due to be played, he shamelessly praised the facilities, glossing over the brutal fact that more than 1,200 exploited worked on the stadia, from impoverished countries, have died on their tasks, their passports cynically taken away from them in what can be termed a contemporary form of slavery.
Inspecting the facilities, which were dressed up for the occasion like those fake villages shown to credulous foreign visitors in Soviet Russia, he had the crass insensitivity and dishonesty to claim that alleged improvements in Qatar’s treatment of those workers was thanks to “the power of the World Cup.”
That Valcke is a figure beneath contempt goes without saying, but I think we should delve a little deeper into his history and what it tells us of FIFA’s infinite infamy. Half a decade or so ago, Valcke and another contentious figure, big fat Chuck Blazer, the number two of the CONCACAF Federation (number one you may remember was the arch trickster, Jack Warner) went before a New York court to argue for the replacement of Mastercard as the official body at the ensuing World Cup in favour of Visa.
Valcke then was a lesser functionary. The woman judge presiding over the case made no bones about it. She called both men liars and threw them and their attempt out of the court.
Back went Valcke to FIFA in Zurich where he was immediately dismissed from his post. FIFA declaring it “could not possibly accept such conduct among our own employees.” This after sending Valcke to New York in the first place. That you might well have thought should have been that. But in very little time the smoke cleared and not only was Valcke pardoned, but he was elevated to his current role as Secretary General.
The wholly shabby episode emphasised the hypocrisy and dishonesty of FIFA who themselves had sent him and Blazer to New York in the first place with the specific task of doing the dirty on Mastercard.
In an old Irish saying, what do you expect from a pig but a grunt? Yet not a squeak of protest or disapproval was heard from the massed ranks of FIFA’s national members themselves. Clearly to none of them did so gross a piece of misbehaviour matter.
To extend the argument, let us remember that Sepp Blatter’s greedy and corrupt predecessor Joao Havelange reigned as President of FIFA from 1974 to 1998, when far from being axed from his post, he resigned of his own accord. Not to be impugned till, several years later, together with another arch offender, Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil, for stealing some million dollars or so offered as a bribe for lucrative rights by the now defunct ISL company.
Thus perhaps it is naïve to be shocked or surprised by the latest Valcke indiscretions. Speaking recently in Doha, Qatar’s capital, Valcke has had the brazen effrontery – after all, his stock in trade – not only to avoid any apology for the foisting of the 2020 World Cup on to the European winter, but that the new arrangement of a 28 day World Cup was “part of the concession we are making.”
Perhaps the most damning left handed compliment one would pay this man is to say that he himself would make an ideal successor as FIFA President to Havelange and the seemingly immoveable Blatter: who now asserts that FIFA have “taken the lead on ethics.”
Yet what does this, alas, also tell us about the major European nations, whose clubs have so much to lose with the shocking disruption of their normal season? Yes, they have protested, but there is no sign of the concerted rebellion and ideally the massed withdrawal that the winter scheduling of the tournament surely demands.
Alas, where you might have expected UEFA to implement such a revolt, instead you have in command the egregious Michel Platini as wretched a politician as he was brilliant a footballer. Platini of course backed the insane idea even of staging the Qatar tournament in the 50-degree heat of the summer and then happily supported in the face of all his own clubs’ needs the switch to winter.
It has since transpired and has not been denied that he was leaned on by Sarkozy, then President of France who evidently wanted to keep well in with Qatar for economic reasons. But did Platini have to comply thus betraying his role as UEFA President?
Feet of clay; not only his but that of another fallen idol in Franz Beckenbauer who also supported the Qatari bid and has been accused not only of accepting the hospitality in Europe and Qatar of the arch fixer Mohammed Bin Hammam but of making huge sums of money both from the Russians and the Qatari. Clearly nothing relevant or valid is going to be done by the ill served European associations.
A walk out of FIFA on masse would be the only logical and valid move. Pie in the sky, alas. FIFA, that den of thieves and sink of iniquity will simply carry on its corruption.