KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Michel Platini says he will not stand for FIFA president; David Gill has said, reportedly, that he will not run for the nominal British vice-presidency.
So much, then, for all the hot air that UEFA blasted at Sepp Blatter in Sao Paulo in June. It was precisely that: hot air. All rhetoric. No substance.
Platini whinged that Blatter had broken a promise not to stand again for a fifth term; Holland’s Michael Van Praag complained that “people link FIFA to corruption, bribery, old boys networks”; Germany’s Wolfgang Niersbach protested “he told us one thing one day and something else another”; and England’s Greg Dyke thought “the brand FIFA serially damaged.”
But to which concepts did they object about what Blatter terms, grandiosely, his “mission”? Did they object to the awarding of development grants? Did they object to the system of World Cup handouts? Did they oppose the latest tweak of the international calendar? Did they object to the reforms?
As Asia’s FIFA vice-president Prince Ali of Jordan said in a weekend interview, next year’s FIFA presidential election needs a duel of ideas and visions, not personalities and petty jealousies.
This is where UEFA stands condemned. Platini, Van Praag, Niersbach and Dyke have every right to criticise Blatter and demand his removal. This is democracy. But the plain, unvarnished truth is that they do not want it that badly.
Rather than step through the ropes and out on to the canvas they prefer to jeer from the safety of the posh ringside seats.
Perhaps Platini, having seen Blatter cheered to the rafters by all the other five confederations on the eve of FIFA Congress, believed they all wanted the Swiss 78-year-old to go on and on.
But consider it another way: Perhaps Asia, CONCACAF, Africa, CONMEBOL and Oceania all looked around and saw no-one ready to take on Blatter so they acclaimed him as president merely for the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t.
Platini, in justifying his retreat from the presidential fight, had the nerve to suggest that in future FIFA exco members should be more resistant to Blatter’s flights of football fancy (presumably Platini was thinking of goal-line technology).
So what example was he setting if not, like the Duke of Plaza Toro, to lead from the rear?
Other nuances weigh heavy, beyond the contradictory fact that UEFA delegates on the FIFA exco include Blatter loyalists such as Spain’s Angel Maria Villar and Germany’s Theo Zwanziger (who has been effectively disowned by his own home association for it).
That exco includes good people (along with the selection of self-servers and time-servers to be found on any committee).
But what might be considered the bright new intake are clinging on only by their fingertips.
American Sunil Gulatui won his CONCACAF nomination by one single vote; Prince Ali already knows he will be ousted next year as Asian vice-president; and Australia’s Moya Dodd is merely co-opted.
These, and others, desperately need support and encouragement. Failing the arrival of the cavalry they will be swept back into the sea by the established agents of conservative revisionism.
Who better to offer some backbone than rich, powerful, Europe? If, that is, it dared to stand and fight for what it says it believes in. Deeds are needed . . . as well as the words.
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