Honor Among Thieves

The UEFA Congress convened this morning in Paris - what, you were thinking Bucharest or Ploesti or Minsk? Have they ever even heard of dandelion wrapped branzino with scampi and black truffle carpaccio with a black olive reduction in any of those cities? Exactly - and the unquestioned belle of the ball, the demure, eye-fluttering Princess who everyone is fighting to dance with is our old friend Michael Platini.

The once and future President of UEFA - HE WAS RE-ELECTED unopposed for another four year term as Blatter and Bin Hammam looked on from the podium - has emerged as a key figure in the suddenly serious-looking battle for the Presidency of FIFA.

As mentioned last week, no one even pretends that Platini doesn't want to take the big chair in Zurich come 2015 and if it appears that it won't be coming vacant then, it's widely speculated that he'll toss his hat into the ring this year, putting both Bin Hammam and Blatter in very tough spots.

Bin Hammam, who virtually no one outside of his immediate family actually likes, would see most if not all of the Anybody But Blatter vote immediately evaporate in favor of the much more likable and respected Platini, which might not get the latter elected but which would definitely be enough to knock Bin Hammam into a distant third.

For his part, Blatter knows that at the moment Europe appears fairly evenly divided, which he can live with, but if Platini lines up in Bin Hammams' corner he could bring a lot of Europe with him, perhaps enough to put the Qatari in Sepps' beautiful custom made leather Eames chair at FIFA HQ.

Last week, when Blatter was asked whether, if elected, this would be his last term he demurred, purring coyly (as only Blatter can) that it was "possible" this would be his last go around but he refused to make any promises.

Bin Hammam, for his part, has always said that he wanted to see the FIFA President term-limited to eight years in office as one of his proposed "reforms" of the organization. But in a blatant bid for Platinis' support the Qatari announced yesterday that he only intends to serve one term and then would vacate the office, and he's openly telling people that he's willing to work it out with Platini.

Not that FIFA allows engineering deals in return for votes or anything.

So Seppy, who probably can't survive having the Frenchman line up against him, took to the podium this morning and announced that if elected this would be his final term in office, saying "These will be the last four years for which I stand as candidate".

(He also promised that FIFA would now have "zero tolerance" for corruption from now on, telling delegates that "We can see cases of corruption that really hurt the whole football family". There's no word on whether Jack Warner is losing sleep.)

That's the great thing about Blatter; he can say one thing one day and something completely different the next and never admit that he's contradicting himself.

Back to you, Mohammad.

In other election news, Bin Hammam says that he wants a televised debate between himself and Blatter, a seemingly pointless exercise considering that the general public doesn't get to vote.

However, he probably figures he can corner Blatter on some of the issues, like transparency - a word which means both everything and nothing, and in FIFAs' case mostly the latter - and make enough of a fool of the ancient Swiss bureaucrat that he'll lose votes simply by losing face in public.

Unfortunately, there's no word on whether Bin Hammam will also be challenging Grant Wahl to a televised debate on the topic of whether Julie Foudy would make a good FIFA General Secretary but I'd say that the odds are pretty long.

Reportedly, Wahl has contacted "more than 150 associations" in a quest to get someone to "nominate" him as a protest against punishing shirt removal, but so far there appear to be no takers. Go figure.

One topic neither of the candidates is likely to be discussing is the appalling story of Montenegran player Nikola Nikezic, who was under contract with Russian first division club Kuban Krasnodar until they decided he was excess to their needs and asked him to leave.

Nikezic told them that he had a valid contract for another year and that if they wanted him gone they'd have to work a transfer, at which point the club reportedly sent two goons to his room to KICK THE CRAP
OUT OF HIM
, and after 20 minutes or so of getting slapped around he signed the papers.

Nikezic has filed a complaint with FIFA and another one with UEFA, but since the club is owned by the regions' governor, one Alexander Tkachev, who is a close political ally of Vladimir Putins', nobody expects either of those bodies to lift a finger.

Blaise Nkufo was apparently smart to just walk away. I'm not sure they have hired thugs at Sounders but it's wise not to take chances with your kidneys.

Bin Hammam says that after the UEFA Congress wipes the last fois gras from it's collective chins and checks out of their five star hotel suites he's off to meet with Jack Warner, and wouldn't you give anything to be a fly on the wall in that conversation?

Unfortunately, lost in all the noise about term limits and Cinderella Platini is the one issue that Europe cares about, namely the excessive demands for top players to appear in international friendlies.

Blatter has already made his opinion known; he thinks the solution to the problem is to cut back on those pesky club dates.

Bin Hammam could make a lot of friends in UEFA by siding with the clubs, and he has said he that thinks they need to be "included in the process a little more" which would be easy considering that, currently, they're not included in the process at all.

However, he says, the federations need those games in order to run their national programs, which he strongly implies would go dead stone broke without them. Of course one might ask whether the $3.6 billion FIFA just pocketed from

the World Cup in South Africa might be put to that kind of use rather than get spent on luxury villas and private jets, but that would probably be considered rude.

Mostly though, Blatter wanted everyone to take away one message above all:

As he told the UEFA Representatives in his speech, he wants to be re-elected in order to "ensure a better future for our youth".

That's Sepp - always doing it for the children.