FIFA's council of cover-up

By Lee Hannon (
Updated: 2011-06-09 13:08
Large Medium Small

You couldn't make it up. The FIFA bribery scandal reads more like a comedy script as each day passes and fuels the anger of football fans everywhere.

Center stage in this sorry soap opera is FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has now become the biggest king of understatement since Comical Ali, the infamous Iraqi information minister, "triple guaranteed" no American soldiers were inside Baghdad just hours before the country fell to the advancing US forces.

Scandal,what scandal? Cried the embattled football chief as the upper echelons of the FIFA cabal imploded following a string of allegations of corruption at the heart of the beautiful game.

The key charge in a sea of worldwide mud-slinging alleges Qatar and Russia bought their 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids by bribing FIFA officials.

Seriously? I don't believe it. I totally buy that Qatar passed all the requirements fairly and squarely to host a World Cup. I mean it is perfect for the greatest football contest on earth to be held in a place where the temperature rarely dips below 50 degrees, they haven't had rain since 1932 and only a few experts question their ability to even grow grass.

Then in a bizarre mixture of bravado and shameless self-promotion, the beleaguered FIFA chief was re-elected president despite his only contender being forced to drop out of the race to face claims that the presidential election was also awash with corruption.

And this is where the bizarre turn of events suddenly becomes ridiculous, confirming the FIFA scandal had suddenly reached a new level of absurdity.

Blatter called a news conference to announce he had convened a "council of wisdom" intended to restore the organization's credibility.

The three wise men chosen to save the world of football from drowning in corruption were no other than former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and, wait for it, opera singer Placido Domingo.

What the hell do any of them know about football? Henry Kissinger may have been a power house in US politics for decades, counseling every US president since Nixon, but the guy is 88 and can't even remember where the missing tapes are in the White House.

Louis Freeh may know a thing or two about investigations, but he is also the man accused of covering up the investigation into the Waco operation in Texas in 1993.

And then there's Placido Domingo. His only experience in football was singing Nesum Dorma along with Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras before the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Blatter couldn't even remember the tenor's name when trumpeting the saviors of soccer.

What is he going to do, belt out Nesum Dorma every time someone mentions the word "bribe" or "corruption" in the hope of drowning out the claims so nobody will hear? It ain't over until the fat man sings.

This should be called the council of cover-up, not wisdom.

What football really needs besides an opera singer are a clean start and a new world governing body free from the cancer that has eroded the current gatekeeper. And that process can begin only when Blatter ends the current circus, steps aside and allows a real group of experts to try to clean up a game built on fair play.

The author is an editor at the China Daily Website.