World cup 2014

Why I just can't get behind anything Fifa are involved in

Blatant corruption and ongoing revelations about Qatar bid makes it extremely difficult to support the governing body's showpiece

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 June, 2014, 2:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 10:01am

The promotional blather blares "Football returns to its spiritual home".

The prodigal son returns to face the music, more like.

It's been a challenge looking forward to the 20th World Cup with innocent enthusiasm. The latest revelations of rank corruption, cronyism and corporate gluttony that have long hijacked our game raise one's hackles.

Not that it has come as any surprise that graft and rapacity have been at the heart of Fifa's decisions to award the 2022 and 2018 tournaments to questionable hosts.

It's more the brazen belief among some Fifa officials that they are invincible and untouchable.

The World Cup is now synonymous with boardroom greed, institutional corruption and a widening wealth divide between the super-rich in the corporate boxes and the downtrodden masses scraping by on the terraces.

As the ludicrous decision to hand the 2022 event to Qatar unravels and the palm-greasing is laid bare, the collective aggrievement at the way the game is run by an unwanted oligarchy is mounting.

Fifa needs to be purged and relaunched as a democratic, fully representative and transparent organisation that runs the game in our interest.

The biggest showdown over the next month will not feature Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, England or Italy. It will be among Fifa officials attending the annual Fifa Congress in Sao Paulo.

There are executives who know the gravy train is about to hit the buffers and who are demanding change and accountability.

They will be squaring up to those with too much to lose - and subsequently too much to fear - who desperately want to keep the status quo of their grubby little private members' club.

The biggest showdown over the next month will not feature Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, England or Italy. It will be among Fifa officials attending the annual Fifa Congress in Sao Paulo

Fifa's ethics tsar Michael Garcia will give a report on his "committee's activities" probe in July. The slightest whiff of a whitewash will cause universal uproar - more so if a lame conclusion is defended by Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Just how did Fifa manage to sink football so deep into the mire? The rot truly set in at the 58th congress in Sydney when Fifa resolved that the decisions on who will host the 2018 and 2022 editions would be made concurrently.

Quite what was wrong with the former process of awarding one host nation at a time was not explained.

Why were Blatter and his cronies so concerned about television companies, sponsors and Fifa's bank account that it was decided to cram two bidding processes into one vote?

For the first four World Cups of this century there was six to seven years preparation time allowed per host. No vote on 2022 would have been needed until 2015 or even 2016. Yet Qatar was handed the sport's top prize with 12 years to prepare.

Nobody but a deranged fool would have voted for a World Cup in a remote, barren, desert city-state, a tiny nation with no football tradition or culture and with summer temperatures posing health threats to fans, let alone players.

Why were Fifa chiefs so keen to call it early, including Uefa chief and Fifa presidential hopeful Michel Platini? The allegations that Mohamed bin Hammam "handed out £3 million (HK$39 million) in sweeteners to senior figures in world football" might explain much.

Piling pressure on Fifa's rotten soul is the anger within the host nation. It's not football's fault that many Brazilians live hand to mouth in poverty-stricken, crime- ridden communities.

Yet who can blame the favelas for rising up against what they see as a huge vanity project for their leaders and crooked Fifa, while their local infrastructure, schools, hospitals, housing, employment and transport suffer?

It will not be easy to celebrate football over the next month when the integrity of the sport lies in tatters and the people who run it mock supporters by waving their swag-bags from the balcony windows of their five-star Rio penthouse suites.

If football has returned to its spiritual home, then beware. The spirits are riled.