The status of summer

Summer is great and everything, except if you’re into European football, and then you’re pretty much sitting around reading the rumor pages. So this is the summer I begin paying attention to my local team, the Philadelphia Union.

It’s shameful to say I’ve not been to a game at PPL park. Confessing this feels exactly like trying to explain to relatives why you never come around anymore – well, I got three kids; work’s stressing me out; I got my hands full right now… none of which are untrue, but still…

So while my first loves are all things Brasil (especially Sao Paulo Futebol Club) and Everton, I am, as a matter of decency, going to make it a point to get in there and catch some games. My son will love it.

As for the stories that were being highlighted when I last came in here… Sepp Blatter freaked people out by denying that he had resigned, and then sort of going back on it, and then being told off by everyone of consequence within global football (as well as outside of it) that he should resign, but not before Putin said he should be given the Nobel Prize. Latest news is Michel Platini will run for the post. It’s going to be an interesting scene there for ages to come…

The most overblown transfer of summer finally went through, with the evil Reds of Liberpewl netting nearly 50 million pounds in the deal. Not bad for a guy who could very well find himself on the bench for much of the next few years. Sterling, while fast and tricksey, has yet to prove himself in a proper world-caliber squad. I guess he’ll get his chance now.

It’s looking more and more likely that Angel Di Maria, who showed what a class player he was at the beginning of last season for the Red Devils, is looking like he’ll be moving over to Paris San Germain soon. There’s a good article on the Beeb as to the whys and wherefores, but the Prem will sorely miss that level of quality gracing its pitches next season, leaving many a fan and neutral wondering what could have been…

That paragon of class and understatement Jose Mourinho has once again reminded us all of why he is held in such high regard with his latest war of words… against old rival and current Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez’s wife, no less. Gotta love the guy, he is the gift that keeps on giving.

Speaking of the putrid London Blues, their obnoxious pursuit of Everton defensive linchpin John Stones has many a Toffee wondering if we will see top talent heading for the doors this summer. Rumors flying around him and midfield general James McCarthy make for uneasy reading, with kickoff for the 2015-2016 season just days away. The story is from UK’s Daily Mirror, which is, well, not exactly the bastion of journalistic excellence, but it’s not the first time we’ve heard these rumors.

The Premier league is just two weeks away from kickoff and it’s about now that the transfers begin to hot up. Of course there is too much to talk about, so I won’t try. I hope to have up the predictions for every team in the Prem before the start of the season, but that doesn’t always go off the way I wanted it to!

In a nod to local club the U’s, former Schalke 04 midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta has been training with the Philly MLS side in the last week, sparking rumors of a possible transfer to PPL Park. This is exactly the kind of talent the team need to attract and retain to see the club evolve. At 30, he is still has plenty of time left in his playing career. A full international (he’s represented his country Switzerland 75 times, with 10 goals), the experience and nous he would offer the squad would be invaluable. Reports of interest from both the Premier League (Leicester City have been tracking his progress) and La Liga (in the form of Real Betis) will be a test for the Union’s leadership, as Barnetta already implied earlier in the summer that England would be his preferred destination. We shall see, we shall see…

A Very Ugly Rumor…

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There is an exceptionally ugly rumor making the rounds in Brazil that the CBF (Brazilian Football Federation) sold the result of the Brazil vs. Germany game (that game). While the sources are not exactly reliable, it is telling that so few question the CBF of being capable of such nefarious action. One director is quoted as saying “Screw the supporters, we’re going to get ours…

Honestly, I would be equally unsurprised to find out this is either a hoax or true. The second link above is to a Brazilian site in Portuguese, but you can translate the page with Google. I find it telling that on the same day this rumor began to gain speed, Globo TV of Brazil, the country’s largest television network (who retains exclusive broadcasting rights to all FIFA televised content and who is also named in this latest rumor as being part of the malefactors) published a report of their claiming Germany bribed FIFA officials and even supplied arms to Saudi Arabia in exchange for votes to send the 2006 World Cup their way. Curious timing on that one…

A Pair of Pigs

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What was always going to be the biggest scandal in sports is growing. There should be no surprise to this, as it is predictable that once the ship starts going down, the rats will jump to safety. It is also unsurprising that once some definition is given to where that purported $150 million in bribes and kickbacks went that the outrage will escalate.

This is because that sum – $150 million – is not exactly something the average person can wrap his or her head around. The timeline under investigation is 24 years – so broken down that averages out to $6,250,000 per year in bribes and the like. This is all money to get people to look at bids for tournaments, to give preference to sponsors, to air games on certain days. At least that is what one assumes when terms like “corruption” and “bribery” are mentioned.

I think we will come to see the astonishing putrefaction in FIFA’s deep inner workings. We will know how the very few people in charge of the sport the world loves have grown to believe they deserve to be paid simply to grant you an audience. The attitude of entitlement, the whole “well, who else are you going to talk to about this?” posture will be revealed in exacting detail, the ultimate evil bureaucracy where you literally have to pay to play for anything whatsoever.

I think we are missing the details, the minutia, the petty corruption, if you will. All of these will be revealed in due course.

This is because former CONCACAF supremo Jack Warner, as well as his former number 2, Chuck Blazer, have agreed to spill the beans. Allegations range everywhere from the well-reported $10 million dollars Warner solicited from the South African 2010 World Cup bid team to FIFA’s role in ensuring he won an election in his native Trinidad and Tobago. We all knew FIFA was dirty, but meddling in national of affairs of other countries seems audacious even for them. Among the many jewels to be found, there is this anecdote: Warner was in the habit of paying off officials with envelopes stuffed with $40,000 in cash. One such official balked and refused to be paid off. Warner’s reply? “There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou. If you’re pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business.” Priceless. Well, not exactly. He definitely had his price.

Of course there is also the comically filthy Chuck Blazer who, among other things, reportedly kept an apartment in New York City’s Trump Towers for his cats. You get the feeling that particular anecdote  right there will become shorthand for corrupt activities going forward; it breaks new ground in the levels of ridiculousness these individuals were willing to go to. You can read his blog here.

Blazer initially helped to orchestrate Warner’s rise to the top of the CONCACAF pile in the early 90’s. For this, he was rewarded by being appointed as deputy director of the regional football organization. He worked out a pretty sweet arrangement with them too, somehow getting CONCACAF to agree that he should receive 10% commission on every one of the organization’s sponsorship and TV deals. That one baffles me. If he got 10%, how much did Warner get as head of CONCACAF?

These things are beginning to make the rounds in the press, all before any one of the 14 people in the indictment have had a chance to work out a deal for themselves. A mess of this size is liable to get on absolutely everyone within FIFA, From good ol’ Sepp right down to the janitor. All is to be soon reveal, my friends.

FIFA Scandal Rumbles On…

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Oh Sepp, there is no rock big enough out there to crawl under. This corruption story is the best thing to ever hit the global game. This has to do him in. It has to do all of them in.

Some updates from today: Heather Rabbatts, one of two independent directors at FIFA (whose brief included working on the organization’s anti-discrimination task force, which is headed by Jeffrey Webb, one of the arrested officials), has resigned from the organization with immediate effect. She is quoted as saying “Like many in the game, I find it unacceptable that so little has been done to reform FIFA.” She goes on to outline her disgust for the re-election of Blatter.

In other news, Danny Jordaan, the former head of South Africa’s successful bid committee for the 2010 World Cup, has admitted that $10 million was paid to Jack Warner (former head of the CONCACAF), but that it wasn’t a bribe. Ahem…

If you would like a very funny (and somewhat pottymouthed) breakdown of the scandal, go here. It’s brilliant stuff.

This is the gift that keeps on giving, people. Stay tuned…

D-day for Blatter

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The delegates are voting on the future of Sepp Blatter, and the organization as a whole. You can follow the blow by blow here. The ever reliable BBC has their man on the inside. It’s rather humorous.

Blatter will almost certainly be voted back in. Getting him out will be difficult, although it can be done. Scrolling down through above link, I found this:

“… Uefa could call for an extraordinary general meeting of Fifa’s Congress if Blatter. [sic] If 20% of members agree, the meeting would have to be held within three months – and a motion of no confidence would almost certainly be put forward.”

What this tells us is even if he gets in, Blatter now has a fight on two fronts. He will do his level best to keep any to the dirt that will inevitably flow out of the arested FIFA dignitaries from staining him, all the while fighting an insurrection within UEFA. It makes for marvelous theater!

A dark day for the Swiss schemer, no doubt, but one he is liable to survive. If this scandal does not literally do him in, he will still be fighting against a tide of disgust and unrest from within UEFA and the larger delegation that is liable to sweep him away, for good. And the sooner, the better. It is as yet unknown whether Prince Ali is an improvement, but until Blatter is out we will not know. My guess is that reality, or any one that does not include a Sepp-tic component to it (sorry…) is still some ways away.

Special thanks to a good friend, João Miller, for telling me about this amazing, world changing program called Photoshop. And here I thought all along that those model girls were just really skinny and plastic looking!