It’s going to be an interesting week for the barnacles in the Presidents Club. Yes, barnacles. Hard-shelled encrusters which, once attached to a hard surface, are near impossible to remove no matter how hard anyone tries. In fact, truth be told, they almost seem to thrive on people’s unsuccessful efforts to yank them off. And, as with barnacles and hard surfaces, so with some presidents and power. Usually, the Presidents Club is reserved only for presidents of countries, but hey, Sepp Blatter is basically the President of the World, so we’ll make an exception.
There are growing calls for the FIFA presidential elections, scheduled for today, to be postponed amid FIFA’s ongoing bribery scandal. I reckon that they’re only beginning to brush the surface of the dodginess that has gone down in FIFA, with estimates that about 10 out of the 24 or so FIFA executives have been accused of corruption in the last few months alone. If you were surprised when Russia and Qatar won their bids to host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups respectively, you weren’t alone (and if you were surprised that Russia and Qatar even played football, then at least I wasn’t alone). At the time, the reps from Nigeria and Tahiti were suspended for allegedly trying to sell their votes, but that really was just the start of it. Turns out that money can buy you anything, including a FIFA World Cup, and FIFA’s top brass, in short, appears to have sold the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar.
To throw an additional spanner in the works, in the run-up to today’s election, Mohamed bin Hammam (the Asian football chief), who was the only candidate opposing Sepp’s re-election as FIFA president, and Jack Warner (a FIFA vice president) have both been provisionally suspended from all soccer-related activities pending an inquiry into allegations that they paid Caribbean soccer leaders $40 000 each to back bin Hammam’s bid to become FIFA president. The decision was taken by FIFA’s ethics committee on Sunday and has left many people wondering whether, perhaps, Sepp bought the ethics committee off. That would be so ironic, yet not even vaguely surprising… it’s FIFA after all, bribery is the normal order of business.
You see, the longer that Sepp sticks around, the more noticeable it becomes that he has barnacle tendencies, as well as having a lot in common with a number of
dictators presidents, which is why he’s becoming the new barnacle in the Presidents Club. For example, Sepp is clearly not stepping down any time soon, regardless of how much opposition he may face, much like the Leader and Guide of the Revolution a.k.a. Brother Leader a.k.a. The Colonel a.k.a. The King of Kings (or is it The Lord of Lords? I forget). So too, the King of Syria, King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen and President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. Oh, and how could I forget, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Sepp actually has quite a lot in common with Mugabe, come to think of it, especially considering that he’s the only candidate in today’s elections. He’s basically running against himself, which is strangely reminiscent of Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential elections. In order to really live the election up in true barnacle fashion, he should make people go through the tedious process of casting their votes, and, after the votes have been counted, he should declare himself the winner and throw huge celebration parties (and pretend as though the election was a real close call and that his victory was a surprise). That would be totally Mugabe and totally barnacle.
Sepp is running for his fourth term, despite the fact that he’s getting on in years (and, as Gareth Cliff pointed out, he has been FIFA president since the early 1800’s and is basically a dwarf… although the dwarf thing might be beside the point). The actual problem is that his tenure as FIFA president has been characterised by bribery, corruption and general crookedness, which will continue unabated for the next 4 years under his unhelpful watch. He seems to feel nothing about the shoddy and embarrassing state of FIFA’s affairs and reputation, in fact, on Monday he responded to questioning by reporters by insisting that there is no crisis at FIFA. Crisis? What crisis? Denial. Totally Thabo Mbeki-ish.
It seems unlikely that today’s elections are going to be postponed – they need at least 75% of the 208 voting bodies to support a call for postponement, and those in the know reckon that’s not going to happen. So we’ve got Sepp for a while longer, in fact, for the foreseeable future as he’s really got himself deeply burrowed into FIFA, like a true barnacle should. With his tenure secure, perhaps Sepp can finally start working on getting a cool nickname or something. “President of the World” has a nice ring to it, and it certainly trumps Gaddafi’s aspirations of becoming President of the United States of Africa, but maybe something along the lines of North Korea’s Kim Jong-il’s “Supreme Leader” or Turkmenistan’s Turkmenbashi The Great and Powerful would work. Maybe we should send him a list of suggestions.