Political Football: FIFA and the Oil Oligarchies

14Dec10

“We are honoured to win in this tough and fair fight”. Vladimir Putin, Russian PM

Tough it certainly was. The jury is out on fair.

The same day the FIFA fiefdom of Sep Blatter awarded the 2018 FWC to Moscow and the 2022 tournament to Qatar The Press headline, based on the latest Wikileaks deluge, was Moscow Utterly Corrupt-memo.

Whistle blowing isn’t confined to the football field. Nothing  assuages  Julian Assange’s appetite for releasing confidential information, not even a red card from the Russians and an attempted transfer of the audacious Aussie by the Swedes on a dubious pretext, with the encouragement of the U.S .  2010-A Cyberspace Odyssey is in full swing with WikiLeaks sympathetic “hacktivists” retaliating  against the actions of the cyber cypher minders.  
The day of the FIFA venue announcement was also the 21st anniversary of the end of the Cold War, after Gorbachev had gorbsmacked the citizens of the USSR   with two years of perestroika and a dose of glasnost then turned his attention to winning over Margaret Thatcher, and with her help, Ronald Reagan.  The Berlin Wall came tumbling down, the USSR dissolved and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union faded away. 

 Gorby was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990-and made it to the ceremony, unlike China’s disowned 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner the imprisoned Liu Xiaobo.                                                                       

With Russia’s current currency rouble trouble now it’s more of a Gold War. In a kind of Dictatorship of the Protectionariat  the Russian roulette wheel is rigged by criminal elements who enjoy a ‘krysha’—literally meaning ‘roof’ or protection like a roofed in football stadium. Winning the hosting rights gives Russia a nostalgically reassuring  7 Year Plan.

The WikiLeaked memo, based on US diplomatic assessments, said that the Federal Security Service rakes in money from the biggest firms and police target smaller businesses. “…the Government operates more as a ‘kleptocracy’ than a government…”.

Russia was ranked 154th in a recent survey of global perceptions of corruption, worse than Haiti and Zimbabwe, no mean feat. Two examples: Gazprom is state owned but dodgy, riddled with investment leaks; Transneft (or should that be Transtheft), the oil pipeline operator, has been accused of stealing $US 4 billion during one large pipeline construction by siphoning off more than oil.

New Zealand comes out near the (clean) top of the corruption survey. The only thing the country has to fear next Rugby World Cup year, besides not winning the trophy, is a bit of Heineken hanky panky. The only Party Central in 2018 will be the ghost of the CCCP.  Russia bureaucrats are still chary of large crowds they can’t control.

I’ve only been to Moscow once, at a time when construction was  underway for the 1980 Summer Olympics. I flew in from cosmopolitan Copenhagen and expected a dour Soviet stay. The airport was full of top military brass-there had been yet another North Korean scare.  The first surprise was that my hotel was called Hotel Berlin-this only a generation after the end of The Great Patriotic War . On each of its floors, under the glassy eyed game trophies lining each corridor, sat the usual beady eyed matriarchs supervising the comings and goings of guests. The next big surprise was to open the door to the restaurant, puncture a time bubble and step into London in the swinging 60s, complete with a lookalike moptopped band. Muscovites certainly knew how to party privately and no doubt still do.

Sepp Blatter has called the English bad losers after they only managed one vote, despite a galaxy of supporting and sporting stars  in its bid team from PM David Cameron and Prince William  to David Beckham.

 It was FIFA who helped bend it on this occasion, with Blatter’s drive to expand football’s frontiers.  Moscow got one back after losing out to London for the 2012 Olympics. There are other reasons for mutual prickliness. Former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenka was poisoned in London by radio-active polonium-210. It’s unclear who the nuclear assassins were but all the signs point to  top level complicity by ex KGB gremlins  in the Kremlin.

FIFA has faced criticism for choosing Russia and Qatar over more traditional footballing countries on December 2, a vote that took place without two members of the executive committee, one from Oceania, who were suspended for allegedly agreeing to take money for their support..

At least  New Zealand’s former longstanding Oceania FIFA representative Charlie Dempsey was present when he disobeyed his riding instructions and  famously abstained from FIFA‘s final round of voting for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, in a move which eventually saw the competition being awarded to Germany rather than South Africa, who had to wait four more years for its place in the rainbow.

Russia , ranks 13th  in the world as a football power compared with off the bottom of the  rankings Qatar. Yesterday, in his first public address since the vote, Blatter defended FIFA’s choices: “We go to Eastern Europe, to Russia where the World Cup has never been. And later on, we go to the Middle East, we go to the Arabic world, we go to the Islamic world,”“This is the development of football and don’t speak about money. This has nothing to do with money, as it had nothing to do with money here in Africa. It has to do with the development of the game,”

Yeah, right!

PS   No Quarter in Qatar
“We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings, being on this side or that side, left or right or whatever….
FIFA President Sepp Blatter

Asked whether gays and lesbians should worry about attending the tournament because of the Middle Eastern country’s hostile attitude towards homosexuality, Blatter said: “They should refrain from any sexual activities.” Lucky the USA didn’t win the 2022 bid and decide to hold the WC in San Francisco. Gay sex might have been made compulsory. 

 It will also be a dry argument in Qatar with the Muslim ban on booze. It will be interesting to compare the behaviour of fans from home and away in Moscow and Qatar during their respective World Cups. It will be even more interesting to see what happens next year at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, especially if the host nation stumbles on the way to the podium.  In election year rugby really will be a political football. The grandstanding has already started.

 #Blinks
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/02/world/europe/02wikileaks-russia.html 
http://blogs.wsj.com/corruption-currents/2010/12/02/high-tide-from-wikileaks-day-4-to-debarment-under-the-bribery-act/    http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/football/4456092/Fifa-boss-warns-against-gay-sex-at-2022-World-Cup

#Lyall Lukey 14 Dec 2010
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
http://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/ My other (bit more serious) blog 

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