“I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life” Oscar Wilde
Ahh the age old question, a question that all men of a certain age have pondered, from generation to generation and down through the ages since the dawning of civilisation; is it just me, or has the world gone completely fucking bat-shit crazy?
We’re three years away from a World Cup being played in a country that is currently at war with its neighbour, a country that must take responsibility for blasting a plane full of passengers out of the sky over the Ukraine only last year. We have the England manager lying on national television, telling big fat bullshit-laden lies that are not only dishonest, but also help feed and justify the scourge of diving. On the pitch referees manage to find new ways to baffle the fans by, not only making stupid decisions, as that happens all the time, but actually inventing fouls to justify their stupid decisions.
In the wake of the biggest financial scandal to ever hit FIFA, with accusations, charges and mountains of evidence suggesting huge levels of corruption involved in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, we end up anticipating one of the largest sporting events in the world, going ahead in Qatar … in the desert … in winter. And then we have Fletch and Sav. Bottle of whiskey and a revolver please?
Now this is (hopefully) not a self-righteous rant against all the supposed evils of football that apparently threaten our very existence, just a few observations on how bonkers the whole set up is.
Amid the furore surrounding the Qatari bid last year and the shifting of the tournament to winter 2022 more recently, World Cup 2018 has passed under the radar, like much of Putin’s work, and undergone very little scrutiny. Even if the football fraternity can ignore the racism and homophobia that is rife and goes practically unchallenged in Russian football if not the culture writ large, can we ignore the illegal war that this country’s leader is waging in Ukraine? Or the recent assassination of political opponents? Can we ignore the fact that the World Cup is nothing more than huge boost to the propaganda inflated cult-of-personality Putin has built for himself? I guess we can, and knowing a little bit about the history of World Cups being held in totalitarian dictatorships, I know who to put my money on for that particular tournament.
It is said that Putin orchestrates Russian politics like a conductor with a baton. He funds all of his own opponents. He gives money to parties on the Left, and they clamour for a return to the days of the Iron Curtain, The USSR, economic stagnation and crappy Lada cars. He gives money to the Right; ultra-nationalist, neo-fascist groups who want to kick out all blacks, Jews and gays before launching the nuclear arsenal and taking over the remains of the world. Putin funds all of these groups because they make him look like Mr. Nice. And sometimes it feels as if FIFA have adopted similar tactics to deflect the spotlight from their dirty dealings. How else can one explain the actions of Roy Hodgson and referee Roger East?
Firstly, Hodgson, while playing the pundit on Match of the Day a few weeks back for United vs Preston NE in the FA Cup, stated in front of millions of football fans that “ I don’t think …[it was]…a dive from Wayne Rooney for the penalty I think he’s taking evasive action.”. Strictly speaking this is true, however it is also true that he took evasive action by diving through the air like a “cheating, scheming, sly, greasy foreigner” would do. Except Rooney is not foreign, he’s the England captain, who was being analysed by the England manager, so he didn’t dive. Garry Neville, ever the sheepish-sheep, agreed with Hodgson, while Gary Lineker gently probed them with an air of knowing amusement.
Kevin Kilbane was the only sane and sighted man in the studio saying “…there’s no contact on Wayne Rooney. It’s a dive.”, and it was a down right, non-debatable, plain as the big spud-head on Rooney’s shoulders kind-of-dive. So so obvious. And the fact that it was denied and even justified by an international manager on national television just makes me scratch my head in wonder. Who can blame players for taking evasive action to cheat the opposition out of a result, when it might even end up in an England call-up?
Is Football losing all sense of direction? Probably not judging by the latest TV deal, but professional referee Roger East and assistant Richard West certainly are. Having screwed up the decision when he sent off Wes Brown, instead of the culprit John O’Shea, for a foul on Radamel Falcao last weekend, instead of just holding his hands up for a mea culpa, he had to go and make up some bullshit story about a perceived foul he saw. All he had to say was “okay, my bad, I thought Wes had fouled him when it was really O’Shea, doh!”. Instead he released a statement through the PGMOL claiming that it was in fact the correct decision, because Brown committed the foul while his opponent was in the act of shooting! Or at least that’s what he perceived, so it was the correct decision.
The fact that Brown never touched Falcao is just an inconvenience. O’Shea admitted guilt, Brown pleaded innocence, one of the assistants concurred with the players, and still he sent off the wrong guy. It never ends, these refereeing decisions, there’s one or two every other week and it is befuddling that technology and retrospective punishments for horrendous fouls and blatant cheating has not been introduced, not for every little thing that happens on the pitch, and not even during the game itself, simply to have justice served to dangerous players and cheaters retrospectively.
Unfortunately justice and FIFA seem to be wholly incompatible, nothing new there, corruption is older than mankind. However it becomes almost existentially absurd when we consider that corruption used to be at least hidden away from us plebs, so as not to rouse our envious anger toward the rich suits who control the game. They were caught in relation to Qatar, caught red-handed. The Sunday Times compiled the evidence, had proof of the bribes, the money transfers, the promises and gifts, and what happened? Uproar? Indignation? Protests and boycotts? Absolutely nowt.
So only last week FIFA announce that FOX in the USA have obtained the TV right to televise the World Cup in 2026, without opening it out for bidding. ESPN, former broadcasting rights holder are understandably a little miffed, and wondering how much exactly FOX had to pay for these rights, and more importantly who? Someone or some-many in FIFA is pocketing a fortune due to the lack of transparency while we end up with a World Cup in the desert in winter, in a country without a professional league, where indentured slavery is the norm.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, and the World Cup being on TV at this time of year will be a novelty if nothing else, so ho-ho-ho, I’d have the final played on St. Stephen’s day if I could. The timing is not the point at all, screw the self-aggrandising leagues who will be slightly put-out. The point is we’ve all been cheated, by FIFA, by Hodgson and Neville, by stupid people in positions of power within the game, and nobody gives a fuck and that’s just life I guess, so I better just fuck off and get over it. The famous existential philosopher Albert Camus once said “the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion”, and I was going to try and take a leaf out of his book. Then I switched over to BT Sports and Fletch and Sav was on and it all became too much. Now where did I put that whiskey and revolver?