We are well apprised of the fact that the earth goes round the sun and the sun itself sets in the west. By the same token, the fact that the last four World Cups have been bought respectively if not respectfully by Germany, South Africa, Russia and Qatar is public knowledge.
Hence the sudden self-important broadside from a bunch of misguided MPs surprised only in terms of their own self-important ingenuousness. Almost contemporaneously with the news that Paris Saint-Germain, financed of course from Qatar, had paid an insane £199million to buy Neymar from Barcelona.
Senior MPs under the apparent aegis of the former culture secretary, John Whittendale, and the voluble Damian Collins, Conservative chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, have trumpeted that there is “mounting evidence” that Qatar’s successful bid was “riddled with corruption”. Of course it was, otherwise why should this putrescent little state with no football background whatever have been awarded the tournament which, to add insult to injury, will now take place in the middle of the European football season?
But though this is the most blatant of the World Cup bribery cases, all its predecessors at least having the football history and facilities to stage the World Cup finals, morally there is nothing choose between them. Unless of course you take account of the brutal exploitation of imported labour by Qatar, which has been accused of taking away the passports of hired labourers, and Russia, which is now reported to be exploiting North Korea labour on its various stadia.
The group of self-regarding MPs informs us that there would be “a very strong case” for staging a new vote on which country should host the 2022 World Cup. Collins himself has trumpeted, “There is absolutely no question that Qatar should lose the right to host the World Cup if it was proved that” bribes were paid in return for votes.
If only. From the moment in 1974 that Joao Havelange, the super corrupt Brazilian, ousted England’s Sir Stanley Rous as President of FIFA, corruption has ruled. That Havelange should have remained in office in 1998, when he bowed out of his own accord is a shocking indictment not only of the man but of international football in general.
Not alas excluding our own British associations. In the meantime, the chicanery has been compounded under the new FIFA president, the Swiss Infantino, a close ally of the now disgraced Michel Platini, by the extension of the finalists to a crazy 48 countries. It would take a regiment of Heracules to clean out the Augean stables of international football and while there is no evidence that Infantino has acted in an illicit way, I am reminded of that old verse from the writer Humbert Wolfe:
There is no way to bribe or twist
Thank God, the British journalist.
But seeing what the man will do
Unbribed there’s no occasion to!
Hard to make out just what is going on at Chelsea and who is truly calling the shots. It seems plain that their Italian manager Antonio Conte was not a bit pleased to see his resilient midfielder, the towering Serb Nemanja Matic, sold to Manchester United, which makes you wonder just who is calling the transfer shots at Chelsea.
The Charity Shield, or whatever they now call it, gave no serious suggestion of how Chelsea and Arsenal will fare this season; so many leading players were missing. Chelsea without a committed Eden Hazard, which they had last season but not the one before, are hardly paupers but replacing the prolific Diego Costa is not going to be easy, despite the high expenditure.
Arsenal have still to work out the future of Alexis Sanchez, another notable absentee at Wembley. Arsene Wenger suggests he will be staying but that makes no financial sense when Sanchez can walk out for nothing at the end of the season. Wenger meanwhile is anxious to reduce his complement of players, and makes it clear he is uncertain about that rare phenomenon of home-grown players in Jack Wilshere, still recovering from last season’s injury when on loan at Bournemouth. He has been at Arsenal from early boyhood and he too, like several others, could walk for nothing at the end of the season. I hope he stays.