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Sepp Blatter - my part in his downfall

15th July 2015

Henry's Travels

It was around 8.30 that I knew something was up. It was the Wednesday evening Brazil were playing Germany in the World Cup. My wife received a text from a girlfriend which simply read “Oh my God are you watching this?” Watching what, I thought; it had to be the game surely, something incredible must have been happening. And so as it turned out, it was.

I love the World Cup; that and the Olympics are not just two of my favourite sporting events, they are probably two of my favourite events full stop. Not tuning into the World Cup is an inconceivable notion for me. So why wasn’t I watching what turned out to be one of the most extraordinary games of the World Cup? Of any World Cup.

Two months previously, I had been passed over a copy of Vanity Fair, complete with eyebrows raised, and a “you might want to read that”. The “that” in question was an article that mapped out the extent of FIFA corruption; how the system worked, where the money came from, where it went, and how tracks were covered so that nothing was ever done about it.

Now, whilst FIFA has without doubt done some very positive things for football in developing countries, we have all known that at its heart, FIFA ultimately is bent, has been for years; nothing new there. Except, to read a detailed explanation cum expose was actually quite shocking.
Football is the world’s game; there isn’t a single country that doesn’t have at least some knowledge of the sport, if not a genuine passion for it. Amongst the rubble of numerous war zones the world over, you will find children having a kick about.

It is an activity which touches more people on the planet than any other, and so has the potential to be the vehicle that can highlight our common attributes as a species rather than the apparently conflicting characteristics ascribed to “cultural differences”.

And yet, there it was, run by a cabal of elite fat cats, who set up a system that lines their pockets and keeps them in power. At least it did. After finishing the Vanity Fair article I posed myself a question “What do I do with that?” And the only answer I could come up with was that it would now be impossible for me to endorse this established order by watching Blatter’s tawdry show, which essentially meant I was going to boycott the World Cup. Was I nuts? 

I was going to boycott the World Cup. Was I nuts? 

Most people thought so, and the common response from those to whom I revealed my grand plan was that it would make little or no difference; this was a fair point. But my response each time was that if you want to see change in the world, you have to first start with yourself.

And so it went; I had set out my stall and I was going to stick to it. Much to my surprise I didn’t find it as hard as I thought I would. There was the odd strained moment; being in a pub showing Spain v Holland in the group stages took all my resolve not to buckle; not to find an excuse to wander through to the bar to catch a glimpse – “The toilets are this way right? Oh, what a goal I coincidentally just witnessed” sort of thing.

Much to my – and most of my friends’ surprise – I stuck it out. Didn’t see a single kick of the whole tournament. And by week 3, a funny thing started to happen; one or two of my friends – who clearly still thought I had lost it in some way – started to congratulate me on my principles, regardless of what they thought of my sanity. At the very least I seemed to be making them think.

Pleased with myself that I had managed to stay the course I thought little more about the desperate state of world football and its governing body. And then, 12 months later, when it seemed we were set for another extension of the Blatter regime, he was out; toppled by a US investigation into the bribery, corruption and money laundering that had become FIFA’s modus operandi. With it arrived the hope that maybe, just maybe, FIFA could reform itself into something that serves the world community to its fullest capability, and without obscenely lining the pockets of a self-appointed few.

And the best part is, it was all down to me.

Ah, if only it were that simple.

But then again, perhaps it’s actually simpler than we think. Perhaps within ourselves we do actually have the power to move mountains and make a difference on a global scale. Sounds crazy? Well, maybe, but one thing I do know, is that if you don’t set the right intention and act on what you believe to be your truth, then sure as hell, nothing will happen other than lots of talk about what should.

Now the house of Blatter has fallen, do I regret my decision to boycott what has been described as one of the greatest World Cups of all time? Not one bit; and I would do the same tomorrow.

As Gandhi famously said “Be the change you want to see”.