by Tony Attwood
Gianni Infantino is of course the head of Fifa, the new broom coming in after the corruption ridden old guard. He has written and spoken about his mission being to “protect football’s integrity” and “change the face of the organisation”.
As part of this mission he has just been to Zimbabwe for an audience with that country’s president, upstanding democrat and friend of the poor, Robert Mugabe. While there Infantino spoke at a gala celebration of the head of the Zimbabwe FA Philip Chiyangwa to whom he said in a speech, “Philip, I am inspired by your energy, mentality, passion. Everyone in football respects you.”
Chiyangwa is chair of the Southern African Football Association COSAFA. It has been reported that in 2015 when a probe team of Harare City Councillors produced a report implicating Chiyangwa in the illegal acquisition of council land on the cheap, the police refused to investigate the matter. Instead the councillors and journalists who covered the saga were arrested. Last year it was reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Chiyangwa on corruption charges. as the press stated that the clamp down on corruption this time was for real. But nothing happened. And this is not all. As far back as 2010 Zimbabwe Daily ran the headline “Chiyangwa shows-off slick cars, as corruption probe hangs over his head.” But for Infantino everyone in football respects him.
Of course questions surround Infantino too – not least when the leaked documents in the Panama Papers raised questions over role played by Fifa president in TV rights deal while he worked for Uefa. The papers show UEFA undertook deals with indicted figures where previously they had denied any relationship.
He also had a notorious role in the Greece affair when in 2015, the Greek government introduced a new sports law in response to the violence and corruption in Greek football. Gianni Infantino as UEFA’s general secretary could have supported this clean up and the cessation of violence, but instead he led the negotiations warning the Greek government that Greece faced suspension from international football for government interference if the clean up continued.
Meanwhile, all the issues relating to the past of Fifa under its previous management still rumble through the US courts. And two weeks back we found out that Gianni Infantino accepted a private jet flight from Vitaly Mutko in November. Fifa says the gift from the Russian minister, who faces a Fifa integrity inquiry over links to doping, was “in accordance with Fifa codes”. And it probably was and that’s the problem.
But the British media have a love in with Fifa. The won’t criticise the involvement of English football with Fifa, nor its acolytes. So when the head of the Qatar world cup operation Hassan al-Thawadi speaks of a “celebration of humanity”, instead of referring readers back to the slavery that exists in the country instead, and the on going court cases, they say nothing.
As a result of this deal between Fifa, the FA and the media, mugs like me pay taxation, some of which goes to the FA which then pays money to Fifa in membership fees and entry fees for competitions. There is even talk of pitching for more world cup or European finals in England. No one raises the issue: should we, and the rest of the world that is opposed corruption and racism, actually be part of this? No media outlet even starts to ask that question.
Perhaps worst of all, the Observer newspaper runs its Said and Done column each week which highlights the outrages that Fifa, Uefa and its employees commit on a weekly basis, without any comment or debate about whether we should be part of that. It is as if that just by having that little column each week, the duty is done, the corruption is exposed, now let’s get on with giving the corrupt more of our money.
This is not like politics where we have to negotiate with tyrants and thieves as a way of stopping bad matters getting worse and protecting our citizens overseas. This is all about a voluntary activity – joining a highly corrupt organisation for sport. As a result no one ever asks any questions, and the chaos and corruption not only rolls on forever, it actually expands.
Part of the problem is that we have become immune to “chaos and corruption” in Britain. Chaos and corruption has been shown in recent years is the fundamental method of examining, for example, the working practices of the British banking system in the 21st century, parts of which are still owned by the UK government and are haemorrhaging money given to the government by (once more) tax payers on a daily basis.
In 2013 RBS and Lloyds, both owned by the government were accused of ruining thousands of small firms by using practices that ‘harmed their customers through their decisions and caused their financial downfall’. RBS was accused of working like a ‘hit squad’ by deliberately causing healthy businesses to go bust for its personal gain.
I actually experienced this when my company was suddenly told that our overdraft facility was being cut in half, but that we could borrow the same amount of money through a different system – which would actually cost us four times as much and require us to put down a huge deposit with the bank to gain it. We had two weeks to agree. When we didn’t agree we were threatened with the closure of our account on the grounds that we must have done a secret deal with another lender which was specifically prohibited under the terms of our overdraft facility. We hadn’t. We’d just been cleverer than them.
In the face of such a culture it is perhaps not surprising that the FA, the media and the government has neither the desire nor wit to stand up to Fifa. The only manual they seem to have is a book of old Dad’s Army scripts, and although these tales worked in the TV Shows, they just don’t seem to work in real life.
The old timers of the FA (very similar in style and approach to the cast of Dad’s Army) are utterly and totally incompetent. They’ve sacked half their staff, they’ve been caught giving inside information to pretty ladies in expensive restaurants, they’ve appointed a man with a most dubious ethics record and then were shocked when he accepted offers of back handers for illicit activity. What they should be doing is dealing with proven crooks. Instead they associate with thieves, madmen, racists, sexists and racketeers operating on an international scale.
Indeed we now even have an FA model on how to do things. It’s known as the Mug’s Game 1-2-3, and runs like this…
1: Let self-perpetuating group of old men run the show.
2: Get some dope as a sports minister and give him/her the same script as last sports minister which says, “The FA should be in no mistake that if there is not reform, their grant will be cut”.
3: Do nothing and rely on the media to whip up enthusiasm for England’s performance against Luxembourg, San Marino and Andorra.
Meanwhile the Observer pumps out the news about international football, but makes not the slightest link between all this corruption, and the engagement with it by a state funded (ie paid for by idiots like me) British institution. And they do this because… it fills up their air time and pages in the summer.
Here’s an example of what we are up against. Uefa head Aleksander Ceferin: “I have an excellent opinion of Carlo Tavecchio. He’s an honest man – passionate and independent minded.”
Carlo is the head of the Italian FA who is seeking re-election. He has been convicted of forgery, tax evasion and abuse of office five times and banned for racism.
And for the Russia world cup we have Alexi Smertin as the head of anti-racism. This is the guy who said that when white fans give bananas to black guys it is just fun. Plus let us not forget the head of the FA disciplinary committee in Russia Artur Grigoryants who dealt with the racial abuse of our old chum Emmanuel Frimpong by banning Frimpong for an insulting gesture at his tormentors adding “These so-called, in inverted commas, victims … keep losing control.”
You know how odd it sounds when President Trump declares that he is going to build a wall on the border with Mexico and make the Mexicans pay for it. Well, just think of this: the government, the FA and the media have combined to con us into entering teams into competitions run by people who are corrupt and racist. And they’ve got us to pay for it.
Clever isn’t it.
Arsenal History Books on Kindle
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.
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