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Home » Sport » Football

FIFA's soap opera continues

It reads, fittingly, like a joke: how many tenors does it take to fix FIFA? Mohammed Bin Hammam allegedly thought a bundle of them stuffed in a brown paper bag would do the trick, but Sepp Blatter only needs one: Placido Domingo.

Yes, the opera singer has honestly been invited to help FIFA eradicate corruption and restore credibility to football's governing body. Ah FIFA, the gift that just keeps on giving, much like a presidential candidate looking to woo a federation (again, allegedly).

Having been elected last week by a huge margin in a stirring victory for democracy, Sepp clearly feels he has a popular mandate to do exactly what he wants with world football. How else to explain the quite startling decision that Domingo has been handpicked by the Swiss big cheese himself to participate in and help lead the governing body's reform agenda?

Eyebrows were also raised at the anticipated appointment to FIFA's anti-corruption taskforce of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a former Nixon confidante who carpet-bombed Cambodia, but at least he has a track record in the sporting realm having helped the IOC reform after the Salt Lake City scandal of 1998.

Now ED is no expert on Mr Domingo's CV, but it hasn't seen much evidence of his experience of structural and cultural reform of multinational organisations. It could be wrong - perhaps he has been matching soaring arias with soaring rhetoric at the weekends, touring the world to rid its institutions of endemic corruption and inspire change. Somehow ED suspects not.

But irrespective of any direct experience in the field, Domingo has a strong link to football. After all, wasn't he in some kind of band with that Pavarotti chap, who had unlikely claims to being a goalkeeper in the past? Yeah, that will do.

Oh, and he sung on one of football's iconic tournament songs - 1990's Nessun Dorma - and by his own reckoning has attended every World Cup final since 1970, bar one. By this strict rationale, ED can only assume that Baddiel and Skinner and John Motson were the other contenders for the vital FIFA role.

Such are Domingo's anti-corruption credentials, Sepp was starstruck on Monday, forgetting the name of his brand new bung buster as he announced his plans for a "council of wisdom" to CNN. But that's what happens when you go for the very best of the best.

"I have also contacted the Spanish singer ... help me with the name," Blatter squirmed. After being given the name, he continued: "Placido Domingo will be part. He is happy, he is proud that he is part - as Kissinger also! People say heis an old man, but he is a wise man.

"These gentlemen are more or less advisers, they are not the experts but advisers and what they should be also is the kind of council of wisdom which my executive committee would not like because they think they are the council of wisdom."

Ah yes, the "council of wisdom". What a name. Clearly it belongs to a great Orwellian tradition, laced and undercut with irony: the Ministry of Truth for our times.

It appears Doublethink is no stranger to FIFA, after all in the very same interview Blatter said, "we are now somewhere where the football needs a little bit more credibility". Credibility, by calling in an opera singer?

Domingo appears to be excited about his imminent role as an unlikely trailblazer for football's brave new world, though.

"Since 1970 - with the exception of 1978 - I have been at every World Cup final in every host country," Domingo told AP. "In my amateur way, I am an expert in football. I am happy to have been asked to be involved with this great sport and have requested more details to see if I can be of help."

ED thought being a self-declared 'amateur expert' was the sole domain of Homeopaths and fortune tellers, but no, apparently it extends to anti-corruption officers too. This, surely, is the kind of leadership, vision and authority we want from our governing body.

At least Blatter hopes to bring in Johan Cruyff to add an element of football gravitas to proceedings. Quite whether the Dutchman will take up the role is another matter, as doing so would surely destroy the extreme aura of cool that surrounds the iconic, artistic football rebel.

The Domingo situation is rather depressing really. Like Kim Jong-il kidnapping a film director in order to shoot his own movies, this idiosyncratic and downright bizarre move from Blatter has all the hallmarks of a dictator who has no accountability and is happy to indulge his own whims without any concern for the greater good.

This is not how he sees it, of course.

"The football family has asked me to solve the solution inside the FIFA and not outside the FIFA," Blatter said. "We are a very organised institution with 208 associations, six continents. I've put already zero tolerance in the agenda."

He added FIFA did not want to "open our border and say everyone can come in".

Not everyone, no, but a Spanish opera singer obviously fits the bill.


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