As Sepp Blatter and his "Four More Years Traveling Circus" rolled into Pago Pago for the annual Congress of FIFA's smallest Confederation - Oceania, with 11 nations and, thus, only 11 votes - the aging embarrassment was still feeling the international heat over the stinking lake of sewage which belched up Russia and Qatar as World Cup venues in 2018 and 2022.
In the month or so since the ExCo voted, pocketed the reported $10 million that Qatar allegedly shelled out per supporter and headed home to put down deposits on beach houses, Blatter has been forced to deal with the fallout by resorting to a series of increasingly desperate, transparent and outrageous assertions in defense of - well the indefensible.
First he pushed the idea of moving the finals to January, thereby negating the objection that playing soccer in 120 degree heat is, quite literally, madness, a proposition which ignores multiple realities, among them being:
- The European leagues would have to change their schedules, something which they are very much opposed to doing.
- Qatar has said repeatedly that they have no intention of moving the World Cup to a time other than the one specified in the bid.
- International sports lawyers are saying that changing the dates is an ex post facto and material change to the Qatar bid that was voted upon by the executive committee and argue that since the voting members were not made aware of all of material conditions of the Qatar bid, the 2022 World Cup vote is null and void and would be so judged by the Court for International Sport.
- The Qatar bid specifies that the Chairman of the Qatar World Cup will be the Emir of Qatar, which will blow such a huge hole in FIFA's "no government involvement in football affairs" policy that you could drive a Mercedes limousine through it.
- The International Olympic Committee, of which FIFA is already a particularly unpopular member, is up in arms over the prospect of the World Cup competing with the Winter Olympics.
Blatter's solution to this last problem, as proposed to the IOC yesterday, is the genius observation that since the term "Winter" applies not only to January and February but also to "THE END OF THE YEAR", he could let the Olympics have the first two months of the year and begin the World Cup in November of 2022. Maybe he can hire Santa to hand out the trophies.
And of course we've been subjected to his increasingly shrill and nonsensical rhetoric, which began with him calling everyone sore losers for complaining about getting openly rogered by a Qatari committee which somehow, mysteriously, was able to announce that it had won before the vote was taken.
Then he announced that he was establishing an "Anti-Corruption Committee" to ensure that everything - in the future - is on the up-and-up, but later admitted that it was more of an "idea" he had that carries no weight since the FIFA Congress would have to approve it and, let's face it, they're about as likely to allow outside investigators to come sniffing around their business as they are to turn down all those free tickets they sell.
From there he moved on to claiming that the complainers were nothing but a bunch of Western Christians who just couldn't accept that there were small countries in the world who had enough money to resort to open bribery to get what they wanted. Or something.
Just recently he's begun claiming that the real problem is that "sometimes" the Executive Committee members "vote with their hearts instead of their heads", an assertion which a) omits the body location where most of them carry their wallets and b) seems to be an admission that they voted stupidly.
Best of all, for those of you who are fans of the richest sort of irony, there's this:
It's becoming increasingly clear that Sepp Blatter was OPPOSED TO THE QATAR BID and lobbied heavily for the USA proposal.
The motive, of course, was a selfish one, namely that he knew that the main threat to his reelection bid, if there was one, would come from Muhammad bin-Hammam, the Qatari President of the Asian Football Confederation and that handing him control over the World Cup would give him a huge public victory that would only increase his influence and prestige.
So with all of this as the background, Blatter cruised into the Oceania Congress with a mission, namely to solidify the small but perhaps crucial 11 votes which they represent. And since his month long PR campaign had failed dismally at it's goal of salvaging his reputation or standing, Blatter resorted to the one tactic which has always worked for him, the one which got him elected in 1998 and got him reelected in 2002 when his cronyism and corrupt policies had dragged FIFA to the very brink of insolvency:
Before voting, Blatter addressed congress to reveal a "special bonus" of $3.2 million for the OFC.
"I can confirm a special bonus of [US] $2.5 million to add to the $5 million that the confederation was projected to receive from Fifa during 2011. This is on top of a bonus given to each member association of $300,000," Blatter said.
Now of course this is the same Confederation which was represented by Tongan Ahongalu Fusimalohi and Tahitian Reynald Temarii, the two ExCo members who you may recall were suspended after getting caught agreeing to being bribed in return for their votes.
Now where on Earth would they have gotten the idea that accepting money for votes was a standard procedure in FIFA?
I'll let newly elected Oceania President David Chung answer that one:
"And to the FIFA president, we are indebted to you for your continued support. In return, I can say that on behalf of all member association presidents we are behind you 100 percent."
Just as a point of reference, Oceania includes places like the Cook Islands, population 19,000, whose federation President left Pago Pago with $1,275,000 in his pocket. I sure hope that will be enough to keep the vast Cook Island footballing program going for another year, don't you? Why, I'll bet there's enough there that some of it will even get spent on balls and stuff.
Meanwhile, back in Qatar, they've got a little problem of their own.
The 2011 AFC Asian Cup is being held in Doha at the moment and to say that people are STAYING AWAY IN DROVES would be an understatement.
Billed as the "second largest football tournament on Earth" (behind only to that other thing), it's the equivalent of the European Championship or the African Nations Cup.
The first problem came when the hosts, despite being "luckily" placed in "The Group of Candyasses" got spanked 0-2 by lowly Uzbekistan in the tournament opener and, although they managed to get out of their group with wins over China and Kuwait, got dumped in the quarters by fearsome Japan.
Still, Qatar's matches at least drew fairly well, something which can't be said about matches like the open warfare grudge match between the regions' two giants, Iran and Iraq, a game which I'll just mention in passing would sell out most stadiums in the US in a heartbeat: