In Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film ‘The Godfather’, Don Corleone says to Bonasera: “What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?”
On the day it was announced that FIFA President Sepp Blatter is to be investigated by the ethics committee after claims he knew about cash bribes being offered by senior FIFA executives to football federations, it is not unreasonable to think that Blatter may utter those famous words himself.
After all, Blatter is to all intents and purposes a Mafia Don. He is the Godfather of an organisation which rules world football in a way that does not rule out the use of a horse’s head at the foot of the bed as a legitimate tactic.
FIFA is structured like a classic Mafia family. With Blatter at the top in the role of the Don, he has his own ‘capodecina’ to run the six confederations which oversee the game in the different regions of the world.
Two of the ‘capodecina’, Jack Warner of CONCACAF and Mohammed Bin Hammam of AFC, have been directly implicated in vote rigging and bribery. It is alleged that they, literally, handed bags of cash containing up to $40,000 to members of the Caribbean Football Union at the meeting in Trinidad earlier this month.
While this is not directly linked to the award of the 2014 and 2018 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, there has been a distinct whiff of sleaze about FIFA’s dealings for many years now. Bid rigging and vote-buying have long been suspected but with little solid evidence to back it up.
As with the Mafia, FIFA tends to protect its own. If the ‘capodecina’ are running their rackets effectively and to the benefit of the family as a whole then they are left alone.
But there is rarely smoke without fire. In this case, Don Blatter is facing a challenge to his rule from Bin Hammam and the family is turning on itself, resulting in a blood feud, with accusations and counter accusations flying like bullets from a gun.
The election, and I use that term in its loosest sense, to decide who will run the FIFA family for the next four years is due to take place on Wednesday next week. But with the two candidates, Blatter and Bin Hamman, both under investigation I do not see how it can now go ahead.
To carry on regardless would be in FIFA’s style, but there is growing pressure on the organisation to take action where the allegations are proven. What is in no doubt is that Don Blatter knows where all the bodies are buried and will not go down without a fight.
In ‘The Godfather’ Don Corleone said: “Never let people out of the family know what you are thinking.” This has been FIFA’s mantra for years, it now seems to be unraveling.