Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hell hath no fury like a nation scorned

Sifting through the ruins of Triesmangate

Ah, the Daily Wail, England's daily register of phobias and general paranoia and the paper which once cheered Hitler, what a mess you've made.

In search of a bog-standard sex scandal, the Mail thrust a preTriesmantty penny (£100,000) into the hands of a woman with a history of mental health treatment, who, according to the Daily Mirror's Sue Carroll, "makes a King's Cross slapper look like Mother Teresa...in the court of public opinion she’s somewhere below Medusa and just slightly above Lucretia Borgia."

Hear, hear. Melissa Jacobs is the worst type of female, of human being in fact -one who places short-term selfish financial profit above the trust of a friend and the hopes and dreams of millions who wanted the World Cup in England, where it has not ventured since 1966. Given the globalisation of the sport that country invented, it could be decades before the tournament comes around again. Secretly recording a friend who confides in you in order to make money and ruin their career is a despicable form of personal betrayal. But Jacobs' damage to England's World Cup hosting hopes is truly unforgivable.

Triesman was a twerp for flirting with a younger woman but so what? Does that mean England cannot host the World Cup? How conceivably can this act of entrapment be justified as being in the public interest - it merely hands our bidding rivals a huge fillip and wastes the millions of hours worked and pounds spent on handing our nation football's crown jewel.

If England is denied the hosting rights because of one selfish loser no-one has ever heard of and never will again, may every serpent in hell feast upon the harridan's evil soul for all eternity. And may all who are connected with the Daily Mail vow never to touch its filthy pages again, seek the forgiveness of Jesus forever or throw themselves off Beachy Head forthwith. This was an act of treason by both slapper and tabloid, sacrilege even - football is our national faith for goodness sake.

But leaving the morality aside (this is a British tabloid after all), FIFA has been put on the back foot by Triesman's stated belief that Spain will be influencing referees with Russian money at the World Cup. As quickly as the FA rushed to issue apologies, the associations they had offended hurried to poo-poo Triesman's 'absurd' claims...but no smoke without fire.

The suggestion sounded perfectly plausible given the history of influencing match officials from Mussolini in 1934 through Guruceta Muro, the Spanish ref bribed by Anderlecht in 1984 to Italy's Calciopoli affair of 2006 and the two German refereeing scandals in recent years. England has traditionally been the least believing nation when it comes to accusations of bought officials, but all that might have to change now. The Italian furor over Byron Moreno, the bonkers Ecuadorian official in charge when they lost to South Korea in 2002, does not seem so extreme after all.

Indeed, the Spanish press reaction was telling, with many a 'I told you so' piece, apparently happy that their conspiracy theories had found international acceptance. If this means extra security and scrutiny on FIFA match officials and the activities of the referees' committee chairman, Spaniard Angel Maria Villa Llona, so much the better.

The wider impression is one of FIFA being a clandestine cult unwilling to let the light of modern transparency enter its inner sanctum. Investigative journalists who have taken them on already, like Andrew Jennings and David Yallop, are doubtless frolicking in the fields as we speak.

Frankly, few thought Triesman's claim impossible; why would be invent such a tale unless he had picked up on a rumour? Cutting deals in a vote like this, with rounds of knock-out, is what it is all about. Once the choice is whittled down to two nations e.g. England and Russia, where are the votes which went to all the other bidders going to go? It pays to do your homework, surely.

It is still too early to judge, but the FA might well survive this storm and go on to win the vote in December. It acted sharply in booting out Triesman and getting Sebastian Coe, whom Soccerphile revealed a while ago to have football ambitions, on the phone to Sepp Blatter. Geoff Thompson, Triesman's replacement, is a trusted FIFA man, although David Dein seemed a more obvious choice with his connections and power-broking abilities.

If a week is a long time in national politics, a month or so probably is in the corridors of footballing power.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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