I am quite certain that nobody would like to be in the boots of FIFA President Sepp Blatter right now. Although he is not a cricketer, the man really has had to do some pretty tough fielding these past few years. The body he governs is in the throes of one scandal after another. So far he has been able to wade off the attacks.
But the straw that seems to have broken the camel’s back is the revelation that former FIFA Boss, Jean (João) Havelange (1974-1998), and his son-in-law were recipients of huge kick-backs whilst still in office. It has now emerged that Blatter was aware of this and kept quiet.
Asked to explain his silence, Sepp Blatter made all kinds of statements to justify his actions. That did not go down well with the international media. In the flurry of events that took place last week, Blatter made a statement that shocked a lot of people, especially here in Germany.
“I am reminded of the World Cup allotment for 2006, when someone left the room at the last moment. And instead of 10-10, the vote was suddenly 10-9 in favour of Germany”. What Blatter was referring to was the battle between South Africa and Germany at the FIFA Congress in 2000. A 10-10 vote would have allowed the President to use his casing vote and it is no secret that the man was in favour of the land at the southern tip of the African continent.
I cannot and will not disagree with the FIFA President. That vote was rigged. Even a blind person will have seen it. In my mind there is no doubt money played a big role here. But it is difficult to pinpoint the guilty party.
Now there is massive outcry by German sports officials and members of parliament condemning Blatter’s statement. One would think that many of these people have a bee in their pants the way they are jumping about in their “fury”. German honour has been insulted and the culprit must be brought to book. He must be punished and the high honour (Bundesverdienstkreuz) awarded him by the President of Germany in 2006 should be rescinded.
Germans will be well advised not to stretch their necks out too far. Since 1976, beginning at the Montreal Summer Olympics, sports has become a big business and is well known for its shenanigans. Strange things have happened and will go on happening. Corruption is the keyword in today’s world. Not only in politics. British investigative journalists *Vyv Simpson and Andrew Jennings, tell us that international sports is controlled by The Club, created by German Businessman Horst Dassler (†1987) boss of Adidas.
Although Dassler died many years ago, the monster he created is very much in place. It cannot be otherwise. The stakes are becoming higher and athletes are pumping themselves with all kinds of drugs in order to reap some of the rich rewards that are on offer. Many young sportsmen/women have paid with their lives, but the message has not caught on.
Whilst not holding any brief for Sepp Blatter, I as an African, appreciate his services rendered to our continent and am thankful that he played such a vital role in breaking the monopoly of Europe, and to a lesser degree Latin America, in hosting World Cup Championships. Obviously, this has angered the Europeans tremendously.
The case of South Africa is very vivid in our minds. Right up to the kick-off in Johannesburg in 2010, some countries in Europe, especially Germany and England were spitting their gall against the staging of the tournament in South Africa. Undaunted by all these taunts, the South Africans went about their work and shut up these pundits of doom. Suddenly, as the championships continued to make headlines with the smooth flow and fantastic organisation, these very people changed their tune and began singing their praises.
That is why I will advise those calling for the recall of the Bundesverdienstskreuz should be very wary of their move. Even if it is taken away from him, what does it matter? Surely not to Mr Blatter who is not a German in any case.
Remember we are walking on very thin ice.
*The Lords of the Rings – power, money and drugs
In the modern Olympics – was written by these two authors just prior to the
Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona in 1992. It is not confined to the IOC only and the work is not outdated. It is an outstanding piece of investigative journalism.
Below is the script Eric wrote at that time:
Bid 2006. The Dice Has Fallen.
Berlin. 9 July 2000.
Deutschland! Deutschland! Über Alles! Germany, Germany, Germany, above all. Sitting in my East Berlin flat from mid-day on 6 July and looking at the gleeful faces of the German TV guys (almost every channel) was a very frustrating experience. The weight of Deutschland on my shoulders was staggering. It seems news had leaked out and the German reporters were openly talking about it. Their “prediction” was confirmed when FIFA President Sepp Blatter finally showed the card reading “Deutschland”. The weight of Deutschland was even more unbearable on the shoulders. The pictures of dejection relayed from Pretoria added to the misery. It was a sad moment for South Africa and the continent of Africa.
I found it difficult to accept the decision and gave vent to my annoyance and anger when the SWR (South German Radio) from Baden-Baden called me an hour later for an interview. I pointed out that Europe and the world lavishes us with lip service. But when it comes to the push, then they are found wanting. And, the decision in Zürich was just that. A victory for South Africa would have been a great stride towards “Entwicklungshilfe” (Development Aid).
My colleague at the SWR was told that that decision robbed the South African economy of an increase of two percent in its GDP and the creation of more than 140 000 much needed extra jobs. South Africa’s immediate neighbours and those further up the continent, including the Island States of Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Zanzibar would also have benefitted if the vote was given to the land at the bottom end of the African continent. This was not just a case of sport and fun. To our people the question of bread and homes were very closely attached to the Zürich decision. Apart from that, FIFA and the IOC have a moral obligation to Africa. The cocoon must break. Rather sooner than later.
In my anger, I also told the reporter from the SWR that in my opinion it was a decision taken by the former rich colonial powers, who ganged up against a former colonial subject. Clarification was demanded of me. My answer was that it was the UEFA States, most of whom had their colonies in Africa and elsewhere, who supported the Germans. When England was kicked out, they threw in their lot with their fellow colonial master Germany. They are like a bottomless pit. They just cannot get enough down their greedy throats. And, off course Franz Beckenhauer’s ego must be taken into consideration. His word was always law in German football where he is referred to as der Kaiser (Emperor). Judging from the reaction of the German media whereby unbridled praises are lavished on him, I will not be surprised if Beckenbauer will be elevated to the rank of pope and Günter Netzer as Unterpapst in the coming days.
My reporter colleague pointed out it was a New Zealander who held back his vote which made the path easier for Germany. Sure. But, being a colonial subject, he only voted as long as England was in the picture. Looking at that incident in retrospect, many doubts have been sowed in our minds. No person in his/her same mind can ignore a given mandate. In this case by both his National Association and Government.
Danny Jordaan and his team must be congratulated for putting up such a performance and bringing the fight right to the doorstep of these powerful, well-fed and spoilt nations.
Special mention must be made here of the role of people like Brazilian star Pele, Cameroon’s Roger Mila, Ghana’s Abedi Pele Ayew. The two former English world cup participants, goalkeeper Gary Bailey, capped 350 times for the famous English club Manchester United and Terry Paine who was a member of the successful England team of 1966, left no stone unturned in their efforts on behalf of South Africa. Siyabonga (Thank you).
One good deed which the FIFA decision did for Germany is that they don’t have to go through the gruelling battle to qualify for the Finals in 2006. As hosts they qualify automatically. That may not have been possible given the disarray of football in this country. Maybe this fact was uppermost in the minds of those who supported Germany on 6 July 2000. Whether they will make it for the 2002 finals in Asia is an odds on bet.
If anything, the FIFA decision , like that of the IOC when it awarded the Summer Games of 1996 to Atlanta instead of the mother city Athens, points out clearly that morals and sympathy are non-starters in this brutal world of hard cash. Let not this lesson be lost on us because we are not dealing with human feelings but a hard commercial world. When our continent avails itself to stage a function of the stature of an Olympic Games or the World Cup Finals, we must do so from a position of strength and not look for sympathy and handouts. It just won’t work.
Tomorrow belongs to us.