Inside World Football
No, this is not a joke question but a very serious one. The jokey part of it is that once on the afternoon of May 29 in Zurich, the national associations re-elect Sepp Blatter for a fifth term as President, the 78 year old will cavort on stage possibly with a football as he acknowledges the hosannas of his followers like a medieval monarch. He has done that in the past and, as in 2002, he may be joined by his grandchildren. But the serious question is what sort of punishment does Blatter have in mind for UEFA for daring to challenge him?
That there will be some punishment cannot be doubted. This election will mark the third time he has taken on UEFA and beaten them and we need to look at what happened after each of those elections to see what might happen.
In 1998 UEFA were very confident that Lennart Johansson, their much loved President, would defeat Blatter and end the long and unworthy reign of, as they saw it, the Brazilian usurper Joao Havelange. But for all the qualities the Swede had, and he had many, winning sporting elections was not one of them. And in Blatter he had an opponent who had learnt the arts of sports politics at the hands of Havelange and Horst Dassler, and was just too clever. A lot of noise was made of all sorts of dirty tricks and allegations of underhand payments to Africans in a Paris hotel the night before the vote but nothing emerged. I recall how after the election I asked Blatter about this and he brushed me aside saying the referee has blown the whistle, the match is over.
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Last night I was called a racist during an election debate organised by Eastern Eye where BBC’s D.J. Nihal was quizzing a panel representing the three main parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats. It came about because I asked a question about who was entitled to vote. The charge was that I was being racist to Asians and it was hurled at me by an Indian lady. Since I am also of Indian origin it was somewhat curious.
The three panellists Nihal was grilling were Michael Gove for the Tories, Ivan Lewis for Labour and Baroness Kramer for the LibDems. Nihal, who did an excellent job, much better than some of the better known political journalists, started by talking about immigration. This was understandable for, as he put it, most of the people in the room were either immigrants or children of immigrants. On the way there I was again made aware of the feelings on immigration when my taxi driver, who was white, said he would vote UKIP and then reassured me “It has nothing to do with race”. In response to Nihal all three panellists made the point that they wanted immigration fairly regulated.
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