On Barcelona’s Champions League Victory

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The FIFA Scandal Gets Worse

If I were a member of FIFA, right now I would be scared that the house of cards was about to topple.  Because I am a member of the football-loving public however, I am thrilled to see the maelstrom expand.  Now Mohamed bin Hammam has accused Sepp Blatter of ethics violations, and he too will also have to go before the Ethics Committee.

Bin Hammam is actually talking out of both sides of his mouth.  On one hand he says he isn’t guilty and that this is all an attempt to discredit him in the race for FIFA President.  On the other hand, he says that Blatter knew about the bribes and didn’t report them like he was obligated to do.  This last line of defense would indicate that bin Hammam implicitly admits that the bribes did happen.  I admit that I am not the world’s most prominent legal scholar, but to me that doesn’t seem to help his case.  If anything it is more of a sour grapes defense: “If I go down, I’m taking you with me.”  While bin Hammam is probably correct, his accusations are all hearsay and insinuation.  There is no proof like there is again bin Hammam and Jack Warner.  Nevertheless, this will significantly undermine Blatter.

If you want to know more, I again direct you to Bill Archer who has done a superb job of blogging story.  The latest column is about the impact of the Blatter accusations.  The major question that hangs over all of this is what will happen to World Cup 2022.  There is no way that the result can stand; the vote was far too compromised.  A secondary question is what will happen with the major European clubs.  They already hate FIFA because of the international calendar.  Will this be the impetus to finally declare war on FIFA?  The clubs would probably win against an at-strength FIFA, but a hobbled opponent would be absolutely demolished.

Additionally, in reaction to this scandal Adidas just expressed some real reservations about its partnership with FIFA, which would take away a tremendous source of money.  If Adidas backs out, FIFA cannot expect Nike or Puma to step in because they would have the same reservations.  If Adidas goes, so will others

It’s tempting to blame Blatter and Joao Havelange, but FIFA has always been problematic.  Pre-Havelange (the English/Stanley Rous era) FIFA looked down on Africa and Asia, and unforgivably, allowed apartheid South Africa in.  The South Americans too have their own problems with the Rous-reign.  Because of Rous’s high-handedness, Havelange was able to take over.  And it only got worse from there.

FIFA will not changed.  It is the world’s most expansive criminal syndicate.  However, this may be the beginning of the end.

FIFA In Crisis

If you are a longtime reader of this blog you may notice that I generally try to avoid swearing.  My rule of thumb is that if you can’t say something cleanly, you probably shouldn’t say it at all.  But today, I am going to break my own rule because all hell broke loose at FIFA today and the shit has hit the fan.

If you’ve been following FIFA politics over the last several months (and really why would you), you would have known that there is an election for President of that corrupt, wretched organization coming up on June 1.  The two candidates, incumbent Sepp Blatter and AFC head Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar, have been campaigning for the top spot.  By campaigning, I mean debasing world football by making ridiculous promises and cozying up to dictators (like the Burmese junta.)

To lovers of the game, this is probably the worst of all choices.  The problems with FIFA go back decades, but it has gotten really bad in the past few months.  For years world football fans have basically tolerated the vileness of FIFA as a fact of life.  This past December though, FIFA chose the hosts for the 2018 and 2022.  The process was so fraught with barely-concealed corruption that the stench became impossible to ignore.  The vote left the English humiliated in their failed 2018 attempt.  Worse, FIFA gave Qatar the 2022 tournament.  Qatar, a nation that cannot possibly hold the largest sporting event in the world both for climate and size reasons.  Not to mention the extreme religious intolerance of the oil-wealthy emirate.  Any of the other four candidates (US, Australia, Japan, and South Korea) would have been better.  FIFA’s own technical committee said as much.  Yet in a secret ballot, FIFA’s bribe-susceptible Executive Committee chose Qatar.  And bin Hammam’s hands were all over it.

Since the vote, FIFA has had nothing but trouble.  FIFA’s ethics have constantly been called into question and the issue of corruption has not gone away.  No one was excited about the Presidential race because it was widely assumed that regardless of who won (and it was assumed to be Sepp Blatter), FIFA would remain the horribly corrupt entity it is.

This month, two things happened in England to renewed the strength of the maelstrom.  The Sunday Times published a whistleblower’s account of how Qatar bribed its way to be the World Cup host, and the runner had (shock of shocks) ties to bin Hammam.  Then Lord Treisman, the disgraced former head of the English FA named names before a Parliamentary committee (where he has immunity from England’s draconian libel laws.)  In particular, he named the heads of CONMEBOL, Brazil, and Thailand.  He also named Jack Warner, the head of CONCACAF and a pantomime villain if ever there was one.  But Warner was a close buddy of Blatter’s, and probably FIFA’s most effective power-broker.  It seemed unlikely that anything would be done.

Today though there was an earthquake.  Chuck Blazer, the general secretary of CONCACAF, and America’s ExCo member brought bribery charges against Warner and bin Hammam.  That a fellow insider brought charges is completely without precedent in FIFA.  That it was Chuck Blazer makes it downright shocking.  First, he has been the man behind Warner’s throne for over two decades.  Warner has been accused of many horrible (and probably true) things, and Blazer never turned on him before.  Second, Blazer is possibly the smartest man in FIFA.  If he brought these charges, they are real, and there will be consequences.

Here’s what happened.  The FIFA presidential campaign has not been going well for either Blatter or bin Hammam.  The continental confederation heads (most of whom cannot vote) favor Blatter.  Many of the actual national FA heads are less enthralled with him.  But they don’t particularly like bin Hammam either.  England’s FA is refusing to vote for either man. Most likely there will be others.

CONCACAF is an extremely important region in this vote, and historically it votes as a bloc.  Which means everyone votes the way Jack Warner tells them to vote.  Blatter got to address the confederation in Miami when CONCACAF shamefully reelected Jack Warner.  Bin Hammam was denied as visa, so Jack Warner–remember Blatter’s “good friend”–set up a special conference for him and the CFU, the heads of the Caribbean nations of FIFA (25 of CONCACAF’s votes).  No other CONCACAF nation was invited (i.e. the US, Mexico, Canada, etc.)

Thus far has been undisputed fact.  Allegedly at this meeting, Warner on behalf of bin Hammam offered $40,000 to each CFU head.  This is a major violation of FIFA law.  Some CFU heads complained to Blazer and he went to John Collins, a member of FIFA’s legal committee.   Supposedly there are multiple affidavits from witnesses.  Bin Hammam and Warner are going down.

The good news is that Warner, FIFA’s greatest crook, will be gone.  The bad news is that Blatter will win.  (Both Warner and bin Hammam noted the unusual timing of the accusations, and implied that Blatter was behind it.  Truthfully, he may have been just a tiny bit worried.)

There are so many questions that need to be answered.  Right now, I would suggest reading this article or Bill Archer’s blog, the best FIFA-watcher blog out there.

The big question now is what will happen with the 2022 World Cup.  It has been fairly obvious for some time that Qatar should not be allowed to keep it.  I imagine that Blatter would be only too happy to strip the Qataris and bin Hammam of the World Cup.  But whether that happens or not is a completely different story.  This is not going away soon.

Get the popcorn, the soap opera has just begun.

In other news, Jose Mourinho won his fight against Jorge Valdano.  Valdano has been sacked from Real Madrid.  It was pretty well-known that one of them would be gone by the end of the season.  Madrid made its choice.  It may be the right one, but expect the football world to turn on Madrid next season.  Mourinho is a virus, and he has infected Madrid with his bile.

I Heard A Rumer

Thank you NPR Music.  You have given me so many great additions to my music collection.  Today at work you introduced me to Rumer, and I’m in love.

If, like me, you are American, then you have probably not heard of Rumer.  Rumer is (yet another) soulful British woman who successfully embraced (the African-American paradigm of) soul music.  It’s like a factory.  And to make the connection to African-American 60’s soul even more explicit, Rumer sings a song called “Aretha“, about the music of . . . well you know who.

Rumer is being compared up and down to Karen Carpenter and Laura Nyro among others.  It’s a comparison that I am not sure I completely get.  Rumer’s voice is much deeper than Laura Nyro’s.  Karen Carpenter’s tone was much purer; she possessed the platonic alto.  Rumer’s is warmer and more immediate but not as perfect.

Surprisingly, the critics have not (though some fans have) compared to the person she is most like, her British soul predecessor Dusty Springfield.  Their voices do not sound the same exactly (Dusty’s was huskier and quite distinct), but stylistically they are nearly identical.  Rumer’s “Aretha” could very well have come out of Dusty in Memphis.  Don’t believe me?  Take a listen to the first track, Just A Little Loving.

American singers are and always have been the inspiration for these British women.  Dusty loved Martha Reeves and Peggy Lee among others.  Amy Winehouse is a huge fan of Ray Charles and especially (perhaps too much) Donny Hathaway.  Rumer sings a whole song about Aretha Franklin, and Adele cites Etta James as her primary influence.  I was glad to see some respect go the other way of the Atlantic when  Shelby Lynne recorded an album of Dusty songs.

Nevertheless, Dusty became a towering figure in music beyond the British shore.  That’s why I was surprised that the critics overlooked Dusty when comparing Rumer to former famous singers.  For so many cultural reason as well as vocal ones, it’s the perfect fit.  But I guess everyone hears what they want.

An Open Letter To Diego Maradona

Dear Diego,
Look, you need to face facts.  You were a terrible coach for Argentina.  Despite the love that the media developed for your sideline antics, everyone and their grandmothers knew that eventually Argentina would go down in flames.  You had a weak group and got lucky.

Remember that you walked away from the job.  Sure you were pushed by Grondona, but you set yourself up for that.  You played a deadly game of chicken and you lost.

Now however, you are not content to merely self-immolate.  In your quest to punish Grondona, you are now trashing all the teammates who idolized you and loved.  First your constant attacks on Batista, and now on your 1994 Argentina teammates.  Please stop it.  Maybe Grondona is the ultimate evil in Argentinian football (which he probably is), but leave your teammates alone and continue your path of self-destruction on your own.

Sincerely,

Solitary Muser

P.S.  Pele and Di Stefano were far better players than you.

Live-Blogging Eurovision 2011

2:55  Octoshape loaded.  Listening to Schwarzkopf beauty commercials.  My look, my show?  Well, look, just put the damn show on already.
3:00 It started.  Squee!

3:02  Don’t know the hosts, but that’s nothing new. Neither is hating the hosts.

3:04 I really wish Lena were singing Satellite.  Or maybe Nicole. Roger Cicero?  Texas Lighting?  Anyone.  Except Alex and Oscar.

3:07  LENA!!!!!!!
3:08  Lena is gorgeous.  The crowd loves her.

3:11 Why do they still repeat everything in French?

3:11 Germans love tradition.

3:14 I already love the little breaks.  Now Finland.

3:15  This is the boyfriend’s favorite.  It makes me laugh between the eco-happy message and the Earth in the background.  And Paradise Oscar’s muppet voice. Oh yeah, the song is titled “Da Da Dum.”

3:18 Bosnia.  Oh dear.  Make it stop.  If the last song was funny this is hysterically awful.  I love Eurovision.  Thankfully the second song never wins.  How did this make the final?!?  Again, I love Eurovision.

3:23 Denmark is the boyband version of Finland.  The first of the boybands.  By the way, it’s awful. This should be in contention for worst lyrics of the competition.  Love the stage running.

3:27 Lithuania.  Off-key.  Off-key.  Off-key.  It’s a shame, because she has a pretty voice.  But she’s singing in English and French to appeal to a wider audience.   And sign language.  The Baltic bloc is just not enough.  But this is a bad performance.  Not Scooch bad or Jemini bad, but bad.

3:30 Hungary.  Cannot understand her at all.  Some kind of power ballad?  What she lacks in singing ability, she more than makes up for with long legs and skimpy outfits.  And those distracting dancers.  Have you people learned nothing from Lena?  Less is more.

3:34  Crap.  Ireland.  That means Jedward.  Damn you, Ireland.  On one hand I fear Jedward will win.  On the other hand, Ireland will deserve to have their economy destroyed further for sending in Jedward.  Bring back Dustin the Turkey.

3:37  Sweden.  Boyband 3 (Jedward was 2).  The Scandinavians are sending in some pretty lousy songs tonight (sorry, boyfriend.)  This is by far the worst.  ABBA they are not.  I can’t tell if there are key changes or just singing off-key.  Awful.

3:42.  Estonia.  I loved it when I previewed it.   Less impressed with the actual song in the performance.  Better than Sweden.  And Jedward.

3:46  Greece.  Gah!  Greek rap.  It’s the worst of the night so far, which is an accomplishment.  On the bright side, at least it’s not a usual Greek shake-it song.   Can we just skip to Lena now? Oh yea, 12 points from Cyprus. They didn’t rhyme fire and desire, so they just lit up the stage with actual fire.

3:50 Russia.  You know when Russia wants to win because the song is entirely in English.  Still I am not convinced Russia’s heart is in the contest anymore now that Dima won.  Hot guy though in a skeezy Russian way.  Boyband 4.  Boring, but the former Soviet bloc will keep this entry afloat.

3:54 La France.  Finally an actual song.  And it’s in Corsican not French.  Wow.  They must really want to win.  His voice seems to be in a different key.  Like the clouds.  This is not a good performance.  Which is really a shame.  Poor start.  Good finish.  Easily the strongest singer of the night.

3:38 Italy.  It’s nice to see the Italians back for the first time in centuries.  Volare ohohohoh.  Cantare.  ohohohoh.  I’ll be quiet now.  Oooh.  I like this a lot.  My favorite of the night thus far.  This could actually be a hit outside of Eurovision.  It’s actually cool.   A worthy successor to Lena if he wins.  Vooooolaaaaareeee!

4:01  Green Room.  Bathroom break.

4:03 Switzerland.  Music sounds exactly like Finland, only a worse song and a singer who is not comfortable with her key.  Trite lyrics, cute effects.  UK next.  The knives are being sharpened right now.

4:07  UK.  Blue.  I haven’t heard it, but I hate it already.  And it’s the 5th(?) boyband.  They’re called Blue and they’re wearing blue.  Get it?  How to describe it?  Imagine the worst boyband you know and multiply it by 100.  Throw in every cliché possible.  That is Blue.  They are not, however Scooch, so that is the one point in their favor.  Dear England, everyone hates you.  Please stop trying to do anything. (Can’t wait to hear the British complaints of bloc voting when this goes down in flames.)

4:11  Moldova.  Those are some seriously freaky costumes.  This is just filler until Lena who is next.  Moldova is the bathroom break song.  Does this count as a boyband?  I’m saying yes because there is a girl on a unicycle, she isn’t actually doing anything.

4:15  LENA!!!!!  How I missed you.  Lena may just be too cool for this competition.  Definitely has too much star power and sex appeal.  That was quite a performance.  Lena, I love you.  Favorite of the night.  The audience loves her too.

4:20  Romania.  Meh.  This is the ABBA-esque entry of the night in that it sounds like it could be an ABBA type song if ABBA were terrible. Bouncy, jaunty, trite.  But basically inoffensive.  What is this theme of changing the world that is running through the competition?

4:23  Nice to see Austria back too.  Nice voice.  Okay song.  One of the better of the night, but that’s doesn’t say much.  Although this is an entry I would have expected from the UK.  Everything about it screams England.

4:27 Azerbaijan.  I’m sure this will be bad.  Okay, it’s not bad.  It’s not great, but it’s much better than I would have given Azerbaijan credit for.

4:31  Slovenia.  I am ready for the contest to end now.  Slovenia sent in Alenka Gotar the last year I liked Slovenia (2007).  It’s been quite some time since then.  This is no Alenka.  It would however appear to be the first girlband of the evening.  Five more acts after this.  Can’t recap the voting though.  I’m going to a wedding. A lot of people are comparing her to Christina Aguilera, which seems cruel to be X-tina.

4:35 Green room II.  Bathroom break II.

4:37 Iceland.  Thank you Iceland for redeeming Scandinavia.  This is a cute feel-good song that is derivative of the Olson Brothers by way of the Beach Boys (sans beach).  Boyband #6?  #7?  I lost count.  While Lena deserves to win, I would shed no tears if Reykjavik hosts next year.

4:41 Spain.  The intermission clip is about soccer.  Still upset about the Euros and the World Cup, Germany?  A Spanish shake it song?  Enjoyable fluff.  And now the Big 5 have all finished.

4:44 Ukraine.  I miss Ruslana.  This will not be anywhere near as good as Wild Dances.  It just started, and I’ve already forgotten it.  Neat background effects though with the sand painting.  It makes no sense for the song, but if we penalized every Eurovision entry for that, there would be nothing left.  Still miss Ruslana.

4:49 Serbia.  Girl band 2.   The look and sound the 1960’s.  How mod.  It’s like a rejected Supremes song.  Boyfriend says she bought her clothes at Target.  Like the song though.  Like the act.  It was very very cute.

4:53  Georgia.  Finally the end.  I hate this song already.  Such derivative crap.  I swear I hear it every Eurovision.  Bring back Serbia.  And here is the fire/desire rhyme.  Ding ding ding!  This is terrible, but it is not the worst.

Favorites: Germany, Serbia, Iceland, Italy, Spain.  Would have liked France if the performance were better

Hated: Greece, Georgia, Russia, Sweden, Moldova, Ireland, UK