Football: it’s a funny old game. Especially when rectangular, brown envelopes seem more important than round, white balls.
The latest bad smell to meander its way out of the soiled shorts of football’s world governing body FIFA is Mohamed bin Hammam’s claim that the outfit’s long-serving president, Switzerland’s Sepp Blatter, has given the Qatari a red card for standing against him in the recent race for president.
“A bit harsh, ref,” says banned-for-life Bin Hammam, having been caught offside by what he calls a “fabricated” decision by the “dictator.”
So, the scores so far: Bin Hammam, then head of Asian football, stood against Blatter. One-nil to the Arab. Then came an own goal as allegations emerged that the Qatari had attempted to bribe members of the Caribbean Football Union to vote for him. One-all. Bin Hammam was then found guilty in absentia and accused the FIFA ethics committee of deciding to send him for an early bath even before it met last week. Two-one to Blatter, then. Game over? Not quite, as there’s still a chance of an unlikely injury-time equalizer for bin Hammam via an eventual appeal to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. ‘Unlikely’ because CAS is located in Switzerland – as is FIFA HQ. Never underestimate home advantage.
Long-time followers of the not-so-beautiful game will know that Blatter has had to defend his goal-line against corruption many times, including recently when UK journalists exposed alleged corruption on the eve of the vote to decide the hosts of the 2018 World Cup, which England had hoped to win. Russia got it. Qatar controversially got 2022 in the same iffy process.
Oddly, nobody seems to be linking Bin Hammam’s nationality and his country winning the 2022 finals – despite it being the size of a soccer player’s jockstrap, ridiculously hot and with no real football culture. And don’t get me started on the local Arabs’ views on shirt lifters. But back to banal football metaphors. Did Bin Hamman get too big for his footie boots? And has he paid a personal price because Blatter’s FIFA squad would never countenance Qatar getting an historic first Arabic World Cup as well as getting its man in as president? Or is this an issue about race and the fact that our man in the dock is an Arab? Does Wayne Rooney shag hookers?
Down the seasons, bum notes have regularly emanated from Blatter’s whistle to the point that one could argue that FIFA doesn’t need to learn to “Bend it like Beckham.” Because it’s already bent.
Martin Jay is a veteran foreign correspondent who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for most major international TV networks. He can be reached at email@example.com for insults, general comments and racist bed-wetting from those who don’t have the intellectual bandwidth to even understand what an ‘opinion’ or ‘blog’ article is supposed to be