Lies, Damned Lies and FIFA lies

The most notable thing about the big "FIFA ExCo members Want Money for Their Votes" story and the "Qatar and Spain/Portugal Colluded" story and the "Former FIFA General Secretary Michael Zen-Ruffinen as FIFA Fixer" story and the others that are sure to emerge when the BBC broadcasts the new Panorama{ entry which Andrew Jennings is currently producing is not that FIFA is a corrupt nest of greedbags who are in it for everything they can grab.

Rather, the most remarkable - if utterly sad - aspect of the entire affair is how totally unsurprised everyone is.

Sure there are some bloggers and sportswriters posting a pieces on it here and there, but after checking out a few of them one is left with the odd feeling that none of them were either shocked or outraged. Most of the articles I've seen are more of a resigned sigh than a shriek of moral outrage. Dog bites man isn't any more fun to write than it is to read.

And frankly, if you do see some soccer writer who's gobsmacked to learn about the utter venality of FIFA, you probably ought to find another blogger to follow since that guy has been hiding under a rock.

Since about 1992.

As you surely know by now, FIFA is currently "investigating" the stories, which were the result of sting conducted by The Times of London, apparently with the collaboration of outcast FIFA pariah Zen-Ruffinen, the former Golden Boy of world soccer, a Swiss national who comes from the same town as his former mentor Sepp Blatter, who handed him the General Secretarys' job when he was elected President in 1998.

The problem was that Blatter had used the General Secretary's' spot to create the power base which allowed him to stab poor old Joao Havelange in the back and grab the Presidency for himself. So he knew first hand how a shrewd operator can easily leverage the ongoing working relationships built through almost daily contact with all of world soccers' movers and shakers and use same as a springboard into the big chair.

So when he became president he redesigned the whole structure of the organization, keeping all political activities and money-awarding in his own hands and making the General Secretary a kind of glorified clerk.

So Zen-Ruffinen proceeded to conspire with the Europeans to replace Blatter at the Seoul Congress in 2002 by "exposing" huge piles of irrefutable evidence that everyone at FIFA was on the take from their vendors, particularly adidas and their broadcast partners, ISL.

It started with several African delegates telling a British paper that they had gotten $100,000 bribes to vote for Blatter in 1998 and was quickly followed by a 30 page dossier, prepared by none other than Michael Zen-Ruffinen, describing in detail how FIFA leadership had sucked countless millions in bribes from ISL, among others, and how the ISL collapse - a tale for another day - had led to FIFA losing an almost inconceivable $100 million.

In short, world football was utterly broke and hopelessly corrupt and Blatter was almost entirely responsible.

But our man Sepp is one tough guy and somehow, incredibly, he won reelection with the help of stalwart friends, particularly Jack Warner. (Next time you start to wonder why in hell Blatter puts up with the full-time embarrassment that is Jack Warner, remember: this is the Mafia we're talking about here, and loyalty is prized above all else).

There's an old saying someone will hopefully correct me on, something about how if you're going to strike at a king you'd better make damned sure that you kill him.

And unfortunately for Zen-Ruffinen - and of course the rest of us - he had missed. Blatter was badly wounded and came within a whisker of being ousted, but he survived and Zen-Ruffinen was unceremoniously tossed out on his ear. His name is dirt in the halls of power in Zurich. You and I have more influence than he does. Literally.

So when we hear that, in fact, Michael Zen-Ruffinen is the man behind all of these charges, it makes you wonder just whose ox is being gored here.

That the guy has an enormous axe to grind goes without saying.

But what really gives you pause is the fact that he has held no FIFA office and attended no FIFA functions - if he wants to watch a game he buys a ticket and sits in the stands with everyone else - since the Spring of 2002.

Furthermore, any FIFA official who conspired with him or asked him to get them money or had anything whatsoever to do with him would have to be a complete and total idiot. He's proven that he's a whistle blower, and if Sepp Blatter found out that you even sent him so much as a Christmas card your tenure on FIFA's ExCo would be measured in hours, not years.

Zen-Ruffinen apparently also tried to get bidding countries to hire him as a consultant for £210,000 in return for which he would tell them what it takes to win the support of the various FIFA Board members.

The same guys who haven't talked to him in almost a decade.

He also told the Sunday Times that ExCo members could be influenced through not only money but also for prostitutes.

You yourself would have been happy to tell them that for a whole lot less than £210,000. In fact. if they needed to be told that then they're clearly too stupid to host a World Cup anyway.

Lastly, the Times breathlessly tells us, Zen-Ruffinen called one ExCo member “the biggest gangster you will find on earth”.

Who could he possibly be referring to? Gosh, I just can't guess.

As for the collusion story, well, as Blatter is telling people: the ExCo members see each other all the time. Are we to suppose they don't talk?

But this brings up another interesting angle, namely that when England and the US almost simultaneously announced that they were abandoning their bids for 2022 and 2018 respectively, there was a great deal of speculation on BigSoccer and elsewhere that they had made a deal "to support each others' bids".

I don't recall one single person complaining about how that would be unethical collusion. Yet this sort of thing is exactly what Qatar and Spain/Portugal are being accused of.

(I can only add that any of you who thought that same thing for even one minute get an F for the semester. Yes, there is an American on the ExCo. His name is Chuck Blazer. But does the USSF control his vote? You tell me.

Same with England, where longtime Blatter ally Geoff Thompson does in fact have a vote but he doesn't even have to return the FAs' phone calls if he doesn't want to. He was put in that spot to appease FIFA after Lord Triesman was caught trying to get a girl into the sack with lurid tales of World Cup match fixing. Remember?

FIFA was furious, and to placate them they appointed Thompson, the biggest tool in the box. Blatter announced that he was "delighted" with the choice of a man "I have always worked well with"

Does that shed any light on the deal? He can not only vote against the US if he wants, he can vote against England. Nobody can stop him and the FA can no more make a deal for his vote than the USSF can for Blazers'.)

So where does all of this leave us?

As usual, the answer is: nowhere.

The Nigerian and the Tahitian who supposedly tried to sell their votes couched the requests, as they always do, in soccer terms: they wanted the cash for development projects or stadiums or whatever.

Kind of like the $100,000 development grant Jack Warner swung for Antiguas' federation President, Chet Greene. Is was reportedly earmarked for practice fields and a new office. Instead Greene used it to have air conditioning installed in his home.

And Greene paid a heavy price; he was the Chairman of the World Cup Discipline and Ethics Committee for the 2010 World Cup.

Bottom line, Blatter doesn't have to do a thing, and may choose to do nothing at all. He can claim that, while these clowns went about it wrong they were doing it for soccer and he won't censure them for it.

Don't be surprised. After all, this is FIFA.