x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

No amount of mud can smear beautiful game

Not even the Fifa fiasco could tempt football fans from giving up the drama of following their team on a weekend.

The furore surrounding the Fifa President Sepp Blatter and the corruption scandals did not stop his re-election yesterday.
The furore surrounding the Fifa President Sepp Blatter and the corruption scandals did not stop his re-election yesterday.

Possibly humorous would be the notion that the recent Fifa fuss somehow qualifies as "bad" for football. While the viewpoint seems well-meaning and conventionally wise - spokespeople for major sponsors have expressed it - time on Earth has shown all of us the impossibility of anything being bad for football.

Football has weathered Joey Barton, the Newcastle United midfielder, which should demonstrate a profound indestructibility straight away. It has breezed right on through ludicrous kerfuffles, when many a sport could - and, really, should - shut down after such.

People still cheer ravenously for the Chelsea defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole.

Here is a game that transcends.

In fact, here is a game that transcends to such degree that it's pretty much a Boeing 747 cruising well above all storms, storm clouds and even all turbulence. Whatever it would take to deter people from coming to the ground or watching from the sofa, well, that thing would be too grisly to mention, in case somebody is eating breakfast. Suffice to say that if the seas rose abruptly and flooded the planet one day, deep in Brazil you still would find some stadium with 50,000 in attendance for a match with a considerable television audience.

Fans might view Fifa as a corrupt clown brigade, but it would be hard to picture that achievement in accuracy keeping a single person from watching the "beautiful game". In the event one upright oddball does vow cold turkey, it might be instructive to follow him or her next fall, so as to spy him or her sneaking out of the house on a Saturday at 2pm.

The Fifa fiasco has importance because it has demonstrated much, including - just a shortlist - how unfettered power in an oligarchy can work, how individuals behave amid hailstorms of unearned money, how decisions in football may well occur, and how at a Fifa gathering it can be prudent to rent more than one hotel conference room so as to have the meeting in one and the bribes in the other.

It's just that, strangely, none of this seems to have anything to do with the health of football. It seems unusually off-to-the-side. It could affect certain planned occasions within football, certainly, but lends no meaningful tarnish to a game that blithely wears layers of so-called tarnish and persists with boom. Whenever somebody says something mars the image of the game, the comment always sounds as if flung from some naive and possibly fanciful past.

Whenever somebody says something mars the image of Fifa, now, that just blows the mind. How do you mar something so marred that marred graces its definition?

The public has demonstrated serially and in many a country that it wants 22 men on a pitch and it wants drama and it wants victory. It does not care all that much how it gets it. You get the victory now; we'll come up with the rationalisations later. If the public were ever shockable back in some sepia-toned era, it has now surpassed that affliction.

As retold this week on an excellent BBC radio programme, Fifa went from birth in 1904 into the 1970s as an amateur operation with a wee staff and an unthinkable willingness to give away its television rights. Through the 1970s and 1980s and fresh sponsorships and television rights, money cascaded in toward people who did not deserve it especially. It almost makes sense that the whole thing would devolve into grotesque family squabble.

The lunacy amassed still more yesterday when the American committee member, Chuck Blazer, received a firing from his post as the general secretary of Concacaf - the North American federation - because the acting president chafed at Blazer's call-out on the now-infamous alleged bribery in Trinidad. Apparently, Blazer also did not receive a firing because the bungler doing the firing lacked the authority to fire him.

While this does provide another merry chapter, and while the hints and shouts of bribery might wreak some disgust or derision, and while Fifa president Sepp Blatter did on Monday make the sure-to-be-deathless comment, "I am the president of Fifa. You cannot question me", and while nobody could dispute this pomposity given the organisation's uncommon insulation from oversight …

Here's a prediction:

Humongous television audience will watch the World Cups in Brazil 2014, Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022, with the last boasting the allure of seeing just who might keel over in the furnace.

cculpepper@thenational.ae