From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.35 :: NO.05 :: Feb. 02, 2012

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FOOTBALL / KICKING AROUND

Belated justice?

He may have been voted back as FIFA President unchallenged, he may now have blown the whistle on Joao Havelange, but presiding over a sea of corruption and assailed for his recent mindless remarks about racist incidents on the field, Sepp Blatter appears to be in danger. It seems he might be replaced before long by Michel Platini. Over to Brian Glanville.

Tom Lehrer, the supreme American musical satirist, a maths professor at Harvard by occupation, announced that he was giving up satire when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now a deluded fellow Brazilian, one Joao, Ricardo Moderno, President of the Brazilian Academy of Philosophy, has proposed Joao Havelange for that honour. What kind of a philosopher can it be who advanced such a proposal at the very time when Havelange — now 95 years old and one assumes rich beyond caring — has belatedly been revealed as the recipient of a $1 million bribe from the now doomed and defunct ISL company. One which fatally over-reached itself, acquiring rights to a large variety of major sports events, prominent among them the soccer World Cup.

It is, surprisingly but significantly, Havelange's protege and his successor as the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, who has finally released the decision of the Swiss court. Quitting, you might say, ahead of the posse, Havelange, aware that accusation was imminent, resigned from his position on the International Olympic Committee which was just about to suspend him. Yet he remains the honorary President of FIFA.

Also in the line of fire and deeply implicated in the ISL bribery scandal is Havelange's ex-son-in-law, the egregious Ricardo Texeira, who is imminently standing down from his position as chairman of the World Cup 2014 committee; for the tournament due to take place in Brazil. He too, though not as long lasting a survivor as Havelange, and with a good deal more to lose at this point in time, has survived an infinity of charges, accusations and incipient scandals over a great many years.

In his devastating book, How They Sold The Game, David Yallop has chapter and verse on how, thanks to his then father-in-law Havelange, Texeira rose from bankruptcy to untold riches. Yallop quoted the former president of Flamengo, Rio's most popular club, Marcio Braga, who told him: “It's obvious that this (Texeira's) money comes from football. When he took office in the Brazilian Football Federation, he came from very bad investment business called Minas Investimentos. It was sold for one dollar after collapsing into bankruptcy. He has no paid job. He has a farm with a few cattle…. The failed lawyer and bankrupt businessman now owns in Rio a Hyundai store, two nightclubs and a restaurant. With this little farm, he has made a fortune reputed to be in excess of $100 million. In all of this, he is protected by Havelange.

You will hardly need to be reminded of how Havelange seized the FIFA Presidency from England's Stanley Rous in Frankfurt in 1974. With money acquired — a euphemism, this — from the funds of the Brazilian Football Confederation, he paid for a number of African delegates to attend the pre-World Cup FIFA conference to vote for him. After that, he remained in power until 1998, time and again voted back into office unopposed by passive, unconcerned associations and federations. Very much including those in Britain who didn't wake up, and then quite unavailingly, till the Seoul Presidential election of 2002, when the Football Association's chief executive and representative Adam Crozier made a fierce attack on Sepp Blatter, who sailed through the election with as little trouble as he has recently had in being elected unopposed. Though it now at last seems that this represents little more than a stay of execution.

Braga, President of Flamengo for 20 years, spoke bitterly to Yallop of how Havelange attained power in Brazil. “He is the flower coming from this mud (of the military junta). According to people very close to me at Flamengo, I am assured that Joao Havelange was a member of the Brazilian Intelligence Service from the time of the military dictatorship in 1964. When he went to FIFA his role changed from being a supporter to being an informer.

Particularly did he do this work for Intelligence after he became President of FIFA.?

Yallop was able to confirm these charges through the CIA's Latin American desk.

Yet how did this greedy and despotic man remain in power at FIFA for so long, taking no salary but making huge sums of money as he roamed the world at FIFA's heavy expense? Not for the first time, one is minded to repeat the words of the great 18th century philosopher Edmond Burke: “For evil to triumph it is enough for good men to do nothing”.

Now Blatter himself seems in danger. He may have been voted back to the Presidency unchallenged, may now have blown the whistle on Havelange but, presiding over a sea of corruption, assailed for his recent mindless remarks about racist incidents on the field — those involved should simply shake hands afterwards! — it seems he might be replaced before long by Michel Platini. A prospect which doesn't enthral one. For Platini, President of UEFA, an ally of Blatter, inexplicably voted for Qatar as 2022 World Cup hosts and has recently suggested the tournament be played there — given the ferocious heat — during the European winter, thereby throwing European football into chaos. Plus his implementation of the desperately drawn out, mediocre Europa competition. Depressing.



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