Nobody’s Right if Everybody’s Wrong
Posted on September 30, 2013 2:39 pm
There’s so much news, gossip, speculation, deception, posturing, plotting, political maneuvering and outright backstabbing coming from the Satraps who control the game of soccer worldwide lock, stock and privately owned exclusive Zurich restaurant that’s it’s almost impossible to keep up.
What, you didn’t know that FIFA owns a restaurant? True thing.
Back in 1996 the city of Zurich found themselves in possession of a 100 year old hotel and restaurant called Sonnenberg which was in desperate need of about $20 million in repairs which the city fathers were loathe to spend.
So FIFA stepped up and arranged a sweetheart 60 year lease to use the location as it’s headquarters building and also to reopen the restaurant for the public, with the understanding that the offerings would be modestly priced and within the reach of the average citizen.
Apparently the local citizens are doing pretty well these days.
Head Chef Jacky Donatz, who is well-known to be Sepp Blatter’s secret Leibkoch (favorite cook) offers up starters like Sonnenberg lobster salad 56 francs (69 dollars) and goose liver tartlets with blackcurrant jelly, 39 francs (48 dollars).
For your entree, a small veal cutlet runs 62 francs (77 dollars), a larger one 89 francs (110 dollars). In fact, the lowest-priced thing available is a 26-franc (32-dollar) bratwurst with potato rösti.
Toss in a beer and a decent tip, and you’ve just dropped fifty bucks on a brat with hash browns. Having the waiter sneer at you is on the house.
Recently, after some local rabble-rousing leftist pols – specifically the Socialists and the Greens – started making too much noise about this, Sonnenberg opened up (some would suggest rather cynically) a bratwurst stand (“Wurscht-Corner”) out on the street where you can get a sausage on a bun for around eight bucks.
Not surprisingly, nobody was fooled. And it also did little to quiet the persistent complaints about how FIFA pays zero taxes on the revenues. They get bundled into the other hundreds of millions of dollars which FIFA also pays no taxes on.
Of course FIFA moved out of the place a few years back, having built their gaudy new Palace de Sepp – designed, apparently, by honors graduates of the Albert Speer School of Public Monuments – several miles south, but they held onto the complex as a convention center.
As time has gone by, and of course as bureaucracies tend to do, their office needs have manifestly expanded and most of the place has been reinhabited (some would say infested) by FIFA functionaries, with a special emphasis on their ever-expanding legal staff.
Conveniently, the second floor of the restaurant is reserved for FIFA Executive Committee members as a private lounge where the lucky members of that club – we’re looking at YOU, Sunil – can partake of the finest of gourmet fare and the rarest vintages on Earth and never, ever see a bill.
Like I keep saying: being a member of the FIFA Executive Committee is the greatest gig in the world.
So it follows that being the President of FIFA is, if possible, an even better one.
The perks and the power are so endless, lavish and shameless that Blatter can demand, for example, his own personal, private entrance and elevator built at the Johannesburg Stadium where his personal, private suite with its $250,000 “African themed bathroom” was constructed solely for his personal, private wrinkly old fat ass.
Have I mentioned all the thousands and tens of thousands of kids around the world who play soccer with balls made up of tape or twine or, I dunno, donkey dung while FIFA pays to fly in a stock of Blatter’s favorite bottled fizzy water from Switzerland everywhere he goes?
Just checking. “For the Good of the Game” and all of that.
In any case, it’s hardly surprising that Sepp wants to keep the job. Who wouldn’t?
The only problem is that three years ago, when faced by a strong challenge from Moneybags Bin Hammam based largely on a sales pitch consisting mostly of “Hasn’t this guy been president long enough?”, Sepp promised all and sundry that if elected he would not run again.
This promise also stalled the nascent candidacy of former Nancy Boy Michel Platini, the guy he picked out of the chorus to groom as his eventual successor and who most of Europe was hoping to replace him with, the sooner the better.
So Platini made what seemed like a pretty safe promise: he announced that he would never, ever run against his
dear friend and patron Sepp Blatter. This got the European feds back in line, albeit with some grumbling, behind Sepp.
Then of course the infamous Port of Spain Bribe-O-Rama sank Binny Ham anyway.
At the time, everyone assumed that in 2015 they would bid a fond – and surely expensive – farewell to Seppy and move Platini’s furniture into the corner office at FIFA HQ.
Now, of course, Sepp has apparently decided otherwise – who could have seen that coming? – and so Platini doesn’t feel like his promise is binding any longer.
Which brings us to the strange situation back in July when Platini told reporters that he’d be making an announcement at the UEFA meetings scheduled for Dubrovnik in September whether he would be running for the Presidency of FIFA in 2015.
This struck all and sundry as a bit peculiar, as the election is almost two years away and nobody opens themselves up to the kind of heat Seppy can bring before he has to. Why paint a target on your back any sooner than necessary?
(Equally as peculiar was his announcement at Dubrovnik that he wasn’t going to make any announcement after all, and probably wouldn’t until, well, 2015. Passing strange indeed.)
Not that there isn’t a lot to criticize Platini for already of course. As head of UEFA he presides over the best actual soccer tournament on Earth, the Euros, where 16 elite national sides play a series of often spectacular, star-studded and almost never World-Cup-Caliber-Boring matches.
In fact, it’s such a splendid showcase for the sport that he’s going to expand (or “dilute” if you will) it to 24 teams and instead of having everyone in the same place, it will be staged in 13 different countries.
And of course the reason for all of this is money. More teams and more venues means more money for UEFA to spend on – well, nobody knows. But they want it anyway.
Even Blatter has snarked about it, which is pretty rich coming from a guy who wants a World Cup held in the desert where, most definitely, the Qataris will be only too happy to build him a private, personal “Lawrence of Arabia” themed bathroom.
But Blatter was just getting started.
Grand Poobah Blatter – who fully intends to be leave his office feet first – has decided to up the ante re: Mssr. Platini, and told a group of reporters that a big reason why Qatar won the 2022 hosting rights was because of “political influence”.
This caused a great deal of excitement due to the fact that “political influence” is one of the big no-no’s for FIFA and, along with his admission that Spain vote-swapped with Qatar, another major rules violation, just heaps more evidence on the “this stinks” pile.
It seemed like an odd kind of thing for Blatter to admit, except for one thing: he was clearly, unmistakeably taking dead aim at Platini.
Everyone knows it was Platini who was the one voter most openly leaned on by his government. Sarcozy wanted a big pile of commercial contracts – and also a buyer for his personal favorite team, PSG – and Qatar said they’d be glad to oblige if Platini voted their way.
So Platini, who had previously promised Sunil Gulati that his vote would go to the USA, reneged due to government pressure and went with Qatar.
To Platini’s credit, rather than join the growing crowd of two-faced liars preparing to blindside their friends when voting day came around, Platini approached Sunil Gulati two weeks before the balloting and told him that he was switching his vote to Qatar.
The day after Blatter’s comment, Platini met with reporters and fired right back.
In unmistakeably snarky terms, the UEFA President said it was nice to see that Blatter had woken up to the reality that governments influence FIFA votes, that it happens all the time with all sorts of topics and anyone who thought anything different was, well, a doddering old fool who needs to go grow roses someplace.
All of which is true of course, but he left out the part about how, normally, it’s done a bit more subtly than by having the voter around the Elysee Palace for dinner and drinks with the Crown Prince of, say, Qatar, while they discuss how desperately France needs the money.
In the aftermath of the Qatar vote, American ExCo member Chuck Blazer made a very telling comment:
He said that with South Africa, FIFA had “looked into the abyss” but that when they were able to pull it off they became convinced that they could do “anything”.
And it’s that hubris, the feeling that they are above fans, media, clubs and/or reality, that convinced FIFA they could put 2022 in Qatar and get away with it.
As this week leads up to FIFA’s Executive Committee meeting where they apparently intend to complete the audacious suspension of reality, legality and accountability, I’ll be exploring how we’ve gotten to this point and whether Sepp Blatter has finally bit off more than he can chew.
Next up: is Silent Sunil jumping off the bus?