Sepp Blatter’s 5 Biggest Gaffes

Sepp Blatter, the man who runs FIFA as a part dictatorship – part clown college,
is no stranger to controversy.

Blatter.

Whilst his comments about dealing with on-field racism with a handshake are entirely unacceptable, they should not be entirely unexpected.  The man makes Boris Johnson look like a safe pair of hands. Here are 5 of his ‘finest’ moments as head of world football.

1)   Keeping it in the family

 Comparably small scale for Blatter, the nepotism he has shown his nephew in the awarding of lucrative TV contracts has been a constant feature of his reign. Tens of millions of pounds have been handed to Philippe Blatter, often dwarfing the budgets of many of FIFA’s own member’s budgets. Despite claiming that the president himself has no role in the process, investigations have found a total lack of accountability and transparency under his stewardship.

 2) Plan for women to wear “tighter shorts” to improve popularity of the game.

With a brainwave coming straight out of the 17th century, Blatter thought it would be a good idea for female footballers to wear “more feminine” clothing to attract additional, presumably male, fans. The Swiss lothario, an unsurprising divorcee, urged women to adopt the ‘Kylie approach’ to success. Female players were, naturally, outraged.

3) Homosexuals should abstain in Qatar

 Obviously unhappy about only infuriating females, Blatter then set about ostracising the gay community.  Already under pressure for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar (a country hardly on the right side of liberal), he decided to stoke tensions further by claiming homosexuals, “should refrain from any sexual activities”, to avoid cultural tensions.

How about just not awarding football’s premier event to a county that still has capital punishment, forced labour and a ban on homosexuality Mr Blatter?

4) World Cup voting corruption

It’s hard to know where to even begin with this one. FIFA’s never exactly been known for it’s transparent voting system but Blatter’s reign has heralded new levels of dishonesty. His 4 election victories have all been dogged by allegations of vote rigging and ‘cash-for-votes’ schemes but it was his most recent success that sparked the perfect storm of controversy. Standing unopposed after his only opponent was hobbled by Ethic committee enquiries and inquests, Blatter maintained his throne claiming that he would “clean up football”.  And pigs might indeed fly.

5) Football does not have a racism problem

 In a proper head-in-sand moment, Blatter declared yesterday that there was no problem of on field racism in FIFA’s game and that any problems that do arise should be dealt with a handshake. Guess there’s no point letting the facts get in the way of a good story. The spectre of racism has been creeping back into public attention over the last few months, with high-profile incidents involving John Terry, Luis Suarez and Cesc Fabregas all attracting international media attention. And the truth is that sadly the problem has never really left the sport. Whilst such assertions may not suit Blatter’s slick packaging of world football, if FIFA and national governing bodies ever want to get serious on the issue it is one they must accept.

Touched by the hand of God

Pele or Maradona? A question that will never have a definitive answer. For every ten that say Pele another ten will say Maradona. Even the games governing body, FIFA, could not separate the two, awarding a joint ‘Player of the Century’ award. After two different votes.

The mystique of the debate is only enhanced as both celebrate landmark birthdays within days of one another. On Saturday the 23rd of October Pele celebrated his 70th birthday. Tomorrow, 30th of October, Maradona turns 50.

Only in football can the two greatest players be born in the same week, albeit 20 years apart.

Two footballing Gods

Edson Arantes do Nascimento – remember it for quizzes – or Pele to the world, shot onto the global scene in 1958 as a fresh faced 17-year-old at the World Cup held in Sweden. He scored four goals in two games, including a hat-trick against France in the semi-final, to lead Brazil into the final against the hosts. Another two goals followed as Brazil ran out 5-2 winners. One of his goals was going to stand the test of time as he lobbed a Swedish defender in the box before sending a volley past the goalkeeper.

Pele was born and the World Cup was his stage.

1970 saw Pele join Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gerson and Carlos Alberto in one of Brazil’s greatest World Cup teams. The team won every game of the tournament including the 4-1 demolition of Italy in the final. It was one of the most complete footballing performances with arguably the greatest World Cup goal. And Pele was at the heart of the play. Feeding Carlos Alberto after a sweeping move.

Pele scored four goals to take his World Cup tally to 12 and it was the culmination of his Brazil career. Overall he scored 77 goals in 92 games. A phenomenal record.

However criticism was reserved for his club career. Other than a two year spell at the New York Cosmos he spent all his time at Santos. Never playing for a European club. He won a cluster of team and individual honours in his spell. But one can only wonder what would have happened if he tried his hand at a major European club.

A criticism that can not be laid at Diego Armando Maradona’s door. The Argentine God – in Argentina there is a Church of Maradona –  played for Sevilla, Barcelona and most memorably Napoli.

After a successful six years in his homeland Barcelona spent, a then world record, £5m on Maradona. But it was a difficult two years in Spain as he suffered an infamous leg break. When he moved to Italian side Napoli for £6.9m he only had the Copa Del Rey (Spain’s FA Cup) to show for his endeavours. But it was in Italy where Maradona’s career, both on and off-field, exploded into the public life.

As the goals and trophies flowed controversy followed. Worshipped by the Neapolitan’s, Maradona led the team to their only Serie A wins in 86/87 and 89/90 as well as a Uefa Cup, Coppa Italia and Italian Supercup victories in his seven years at the club.

Any football fan would delight at the wonder of his left foot and the emotion he took onto the pitch. Off the pitch however there were run ins with authorities as a drug problem increased.

It was after Napoli and a spell with Spanish side, Sevilla, that he failed a drug test for the second time. He had already been suspended for 15 months while at Napoli but the one that will stand out is at the 1994 World Cup. Maradona, captaining favourites Argentina, tested positive for banned substance ephedrine. Who can forget the footage of his celebration after a goal against Greece? His eyes literally popping out their sockets. It was no way to end an international career that dominated international football eight years earlier.

He did not make the impression that Pele did in his first World Cup as he ended the 1982 World Cup being sent-off against Brazil as Argentina were knocked out. It was 1986 that Maradona firmly planted his seed as a legend of the game. He captained the Argentine side in Mexico to a 3-2 victory against West Germany in the final. But it was in the quarter-finals against England that he will be remembered for. Controversy and genius rolled into one match. No match sums the stocky Argentine up better.

The ‘Hand of God’. A defensive mix-up sent the ball into the air in the English box. Maradona jumped with Peter Shilton and knocked the ball in with his hand. Controversy. Minutes later Maradona picked the ball up at the half way line and this time drifted past player after player before rounding Shilton and slotting into the empty net. Genius.

In 1990 he led the team again but could not inspire Argentina to a consecutive World Cup triumph. West Germany overcoming them in the final.

Diego Armando Maradona combined controversy with genius all his career. A flawed genius. One which fans love to love. Someone out of the ordinary. But someone with flaws which fans can relate. Maradona has every quality for a superhero.

He managed Argentina to a quarter-final place in the World Cup this year but still showed in training sessions he had a wand of a left foot. A wand of a left foot that has been replicated in another Argentine footballer.

Lionel Messi. The closest thing to Diego Armando Maradona. Minus the controversy.

d’Hooghe criticises challenges

by John Stephens

Every Sunday afternoon men, young and old, the length and breadth of the country play in Amateur football leagues. Far removed from the Theatre of Dreams they are faced with the Theatre of Reality on a variety of different pitches, each one more worn out than the previous.

In recent weeks in high profile games we have seen a few robust challenges, most notably Nigel De Jong on Hatem Ben Arfa which resulted in the latter having to undergo surgery to repair his tibia and fibula. Of course these are commonplace as you descend further into the murky depths that football reaches.

Dr. Michael d’Hooghe of Fifa recently stated that ‘some players come on the field… to break a career’ and even labelled the acts as ‘disfiguring football at the highest level’ and ‘criminal’. On a game on Sunday that was played on Cavalry Park’s own Theatre of Reality, the only criminal acts were those of violent conduct and not of the beautiful game played in its somehow attractive brutal force with a real injection of venom in tackles.

[Read more...]

Football league adopts ‘home-grown’ rule

By Graeme Macleod

The Football League in England has voted to introduce a ‘home-grown players’ rule from the start of next season.

At an extraordinary general meeting in Derby, the majority of league clubs voted in favour of the rule’s introduction.

The new legislation will mean that a minimum of four players in a club’s 16-man matchday squad must have been playing domestic football in England for at least three years before they turn 21-years-old. These players can be of any nationality.

The new scheme is likely to come into force at the start of the 2009-10 season. It is in line with UEFA recommendations, but not FIFA’s proposed ‘six plus five’ rule.

Football League chairman Lord Malwhinney told Sky Sports: “League clubs are at the forefront of developing young playing talent for the domestic game.”

“As a result of today’s vote, those players being developed will have a greater chance to demonstrate their talent at first-team level.”

Arbroath to wait for Hearts’ money

By Ross Hart

Hearts have come to an agreement with Arbroath to postpone payment of money owed to the Second Division side over the Andy Webster transfer deal for a month.

The debt of around £15,000 is Arbroath’s cut of the deal that took Webster from Hearts to Wigan in 2006. Arbroath inserted a sell on clause into the deal which took the player to Edinburgh in 2001.

Arbroath secretary Garry Callon said: “We are due £14,437 plus VAT with the interest on top and we have been told that will be paid on January 9.”

Webster was with Hearts for five years before invoking a loophole in governing body FIFA’s contract law. This clause allowed the player to leave for a club outside Scotland if his current employers were given adequate notice.

He then signed for Wigan but his time at the JJB Stadium was hit by injury and he signed for Rangers a year later on loan before making a permanent move to the Glasgow club.

The delay in the payment comes amid fears of a cash crisis at Hearts. Earlier this month, players received their wages four days late and win bonuses were also due to them.

It is rumoured that the Jambos’ owner Vladimir Romanov is preparing to sell on some of the club’s top earners, such as captain Christophe Berra, in January to ease the cash-flow problems the club face.

Scotland pay the price for missed opportunities

Iwelumos glaring error cost Scotland dearly

Iwelumo's glaring error cost Scotland dearly

By Christopher Hall

The Scottish national side has slipped seven places from 26th to 33rd place in the latest Fifa World Rankings.

The recent qualification game against Norway was Scotland’s only game in October, which ended 0-0 and was overshadowed by a 3-yard glaring miss from Scotland debutant, Chris Iwelumo.

This comes just over a year after the national side were elevated to their highest Fifa ranking in October 2007. The team benefited from a number of good results including a double win over France in qualification for Euro 2008.

The slip comes as other home nations undergo a change in fortunes. England have moved back into the top ten as they hold joint 10th place with Portugal while Northern Ireland’s recent results mean they drop seven places to 42nd place.

Wales also drop one place to 62nd as John Toshack’s men suffer from a string of bad results, making them the lowest place home nation.

FIFA World Rankings

1. Spain (-)
2. Germany (+1)
3. Italy (-1)
4. Netherlands (+1)
5. Brazil (-1)
6. Argentina (+1)
7. Croatia (-1)
8. Russia (+1)
9. Czech Republic (-1)
10. Portugal (-), England (+4)

Selected others

33. Scotland (-7)
36. Republic of Ireland (+2)
42. Northern Ireland (-7)
62. Wales (-1)

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