The Ham That Got Germany the 2006 World Cup

If you spend much time rutting around in the pig stye that is FIFA politics, you usually end up with an urgent desire for a shower or, at the least, three fingers of a nice single malt.

But the long and sordid history of Sepp Blatter's administration is not without comic relief. Take, for example, the reason the 2006 World Cup was held in Germany.

FIFA's Executive Committee met in Zurich in July of 2000 to make the final decision between Germany and South Africa.

Now, the African Nations had strongly backed Sepp for re-election, and a big part of the deal was Blatter's commitment to holding the 2006 WC South Africa.

(Another big reason they backed him was the large envelopes stuffed with cash that found their way under delegates doors the night before Blatter's re-election. When word got out, FIFA blandly explained that the cash was intended for "development")

The delegates were all under intense pressure, particularly from Blatter, who had a lot riding on this and who can be, as we all know, very "persuasive". So by the eve of the vote, all of the delegates were really feeling the heat.

Sepp (and everyone else) knew how it was going to go down: the committee was evenly split 12-12, allowing Blatter to cast the deciding vote. It was in the bag. But then a German "satire magazine" (and who knew the Germans did humor?) called Titanic figured they would make a last ditch effort for their homeland.

The editors at Titanic had been able to find out the room numbers for seven delegate's hotel rooms, and so - in the middle of the night - they sent each one of them an identical fax. And since the delegates were all staying in the most expensive hotel in Zurich (of course) where the service is legendary, the Germans simply called the front desk, told them that the faxes were "urgent" and the hotel immediately put each one in an envelope and slid it under the delegates doors.

Here's a copy:

It was such a transparent joke that they figured no one would take it seriously.

But they weren't counting on Oceania's delegate, 78 year old Charles Dempsey of New Zealand.

Dempsey's federation had instructed him to vote for South Africa, and everybody knew the old boy was basically just a functionary. Blatter had him in the bag. So it was a real shock to Sepp - and everyone else who was busily playing their part in this little piece of theater - when Dempsey abstained.

"This final fax broke my neck," Dempsey later said.

During a stopover in Singapore en route back to New Zealand, he told one reporter: "I chose to abstain because of the intolerable pressure that was put on me by all. Not by the actual bidding people, but the people on the fringe and incessant phone calls that I was receiving in my room, and also the attempts to bribe me."

Blatter was stunned, but there was nothing he could do; the vote was 12 - 11 for Germany. Sepp never got to vote.

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