Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blatter Will Brazen This out but, the Truth Is, He Shouldn't Have a Prayer

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blatter Will Brazen This out but, the Truth Is, He Shouldn't Have a Prayer

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

[bar] HE great 1990s philosophercomedian Bill Hicks once said that the thing he liked best about being a stand-up was that he didn't have a boss. Bosses, he said, are like "gnats on the beach": constantly buzzing around and getting in your face.

Of course, Hicks wasn't being quite fair. Not all bosses are like that. Some of them are much worse. And the prize for the worst boss in the world can probably be awarded on a special lifetime basis to Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA.

Blatter is a sort of dick laureate of world sport: a man so toweringly awful that he almost strays into performance art. I have a strange feeling that one day Blatter's entire presidency will be unveiled as a new genre of hoax television: somewhere between a mockumentary and a grand social experiment.

After the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Blatter, by now decrepit, half-blind, and being wheeled about the desert in a bejewelled bath-chair surrounded by a harem waving palm fronds, will whip off his rubber mask and reveal that he was Sacha Baron Cohen all along.

Unfortunately, until that moment we have to take Blatter seriously, which is why it is so mightily astonishing to hear his comments this week, to the effect that instances of racist abuse in football matches should be settled with a handshake after the game and no lingering ill-feeling.

Pardon? Yes, you heard that right. In Blatterland, football is a game played by the sort of old-school guys who can sling a few skin-jibe zingers around with no one taking too much offence. Imagine: the final whistle goes, and the black player saunters up to his opponent: "I say, old bean, did I hear you call me a coconut-throwing jigaboo back there?" "Matter of fact I did," says whitey. (Or yellowy, or browny, or whoever.) "No hard feelings, eh?" "Of course not!" They shake hands, tousle each others' hair and retire to whip each other with wet towels in the changing rooms.

Since the howls of rage that greeted his initial statement, of course, Blatter has backtracked. He has posted protestations on the FIFA website of his commitment to "the fight against racism and any type of discrimination in football and in society", published pictures of himself clinging to the South African politician and former Robben Island inmate Mosima 'Tokyo' Sexwale and had an obligatory Twitter row with the game's ultimate online arbiter of morals and ethics, Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand. …

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