I have this strong image of Sepp Blatter and Neymar Jr. riding the same paddy wagon on the way to the hoosegow.
I know, I know, innocent until proven, etc. But I cannot control my imagination.
Blatter is being investigated for chicanery within FIFA.
Neymar Jr. is being investigated -- not for diving, but for tax evasion involving his family business.
I picture them in the same van, riding up the river.
(Not sure what river. The Amazon? The Limmat? Never mind, it's an analogy.)
Neymar is antsy, as a first-time offender.
Blatter is stolid, having feared this moment, in his dark 3 AM moments, for many years.
It's like the scene in the classic movie, "The Unforgiven," where the kid is blubbering to Clint that he's never killed anybody before. (Blatter is no Clint, but let it pass.)
"Geez, Mr. Blatter, I never thought it would come to this. I figured, I get away with stuff on the pitch, my family can file what we want on tax forms."
Blatter is silent.
"Plus, Mr. Blatter, we all saw how you guys did it. Millions of dollars to Havelange and his son-in-law. Jack Warner making poor old Nelson Mandela fly all the way to Trinidad to beg for the World Cup. And maybe millions of dollars to Warner for his votes. The FIFA way."
Blatter turns his back, facing the van wall, but Neymar continues.
"Fat Chuckie Blazer in the Trump Tower, two apartments! And you, with the yellow Fair Play banners at every match, getting on TV. You were the role model."
Blatter turns to Neymar and bares his teeth, like Edward G.Robinson or Jimmy Cagney in the last reel.
"Shut up, kid," Blatter growls.
The ride continues up river, silently.
* * *
For the details, please see links from the NY Times:
Juliet Macur's terrific column in the Sunday Times:
The Reuters story on Neymar's tax troubles:
Sam Borden's story on the investigation of Blatter:
Borden's story on another slippery guy, Michel Platini, who double-crossed the U.S. for the 2022 bid:
And for background on FIFA frolics, you might consider my book, "Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer," now out in paperback, with an added chapter on 2014. The dark side would be Blatter and his chums.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.