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Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005
Blatter off his rocker with comments on player salaries
LONDON -- Imagine going in to your local bar and Bill, the guy who everyone loves but cannot take seriously, said: "I've got an idea. Why not make football a game of four quarters instead of two halves? The United States television market would like it."
Good old Bill. Yes, great idea Bill -- another half a bitter?
That downed, Bill comes up with another belter.
"There aren't enough goals being scored. We should make the goals bigger."
Nice chap Bill. Can't dislike him. Got some weird and wonderful ideas about football, too, but always good for a laugh.
These ideas to revolutionize the world's most popular sport actually came from Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA and arguably the most important man in football.
A man unlike Bill to be taken seriously, though there are times when Blatter uses his lofty platform to score a magnificent own-goal or two.
His latest outburst was that "greed is threatening the beautiful game" and few would disagree with Bill, sorry, Sepp on this.
Club owners are investing "pornographic amounts of money," he claimed, and we can only hope something was lost in translation.
Blatter's salary and expenses, which one can reasonably assume to be massive -- perhaps on a par with many of the "greedy players" he referred to -- are one of FIFA's most closely guarded secrets incidentally, Swiss law it seems protecting such details from being revealed.
"What we are faced with today is a football society of haves and have nots," Blatter wrote in a column in Wednesday's Financial Times.
Have and have yachts would have been more appropriate for some owners.
Blatter did not name any individuals, though it is not rocket science to assume he was probably referring to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and the Glazer family which controls Manchester United.
"Unlimited cash has given a handful of club owners the wherewithal to control the global game by splashing unimaginable sums on a tiny group of elite players," said Blatter. "More than ever before, the majority is fighting with spears, while the greedy few have the financial equivalent of nuclear warheads."
Stirring stuff -- spears versus the warheads -- and FIFA is, Blatter assured us without giving details, going to control the "misguided, wild-west style of capitalism" which threatens to "suffocate" the game.
Hold on, what's that noise?
Is it a Russian billionaire quaking or laughing on his yacht -- correction, one of his yachts -- in Monaco?
"Having set foot in the sport seemingly out of nowhere, they proceed to throw pornographic amounts of money at it," Blatter continued and maybe the air is turning blue in Monte Carlo now.
Blatter was on a roll and attacked salary negotiations which produce "semi-educated, sometimes foul-mouthed players on £100,000 a week holding clubs to ransom until they get, say £120,000.
"More often than not, these players are guided in their endeavors by unsavory agents whose income is a percentage of the deal they cut for their client."
These, of course, could not be the agents who are registered with FIFA, the only people who can officially be involved in any such negotiations.
There was more.
"It is simply insane for any player to 'earn' £6 million to £8 million a year when the annual budget of even a club competing in Europe's Champions League may be less than half that.
"What logic, right or economic necessity would qualify a man in his mid-twenties to demand to earn in a month a sum that his own father -- and the majority of fans -- could not hope to earn in a decade?"
Quite what relevance a player's education or social standing has to his football salary is difficult to see.
Supporters don't care if a player is illiterate or has a university degree if he scores the winning goal. And the same argument applies to rock stars and actors -- it is called supply and demand and also extends to CEO's of major companies and possibly even some football administrators.
Blatter also seemed to forget that it is these players of dubious education who have made FIFA so rich.
Still, a touch of biting the hand that feeds you never goes amiss. Enjoy the 2006 World Cup, Sepp . . . then sit back and count the money that has come FIFA's way on the backs of those who apparently believe the capital of Bolivia is around £5 billion.
FROM BITING the hand that feeds you to dog eats dog.
Expressen, a Swedish newspaper, has started a campaign against the English media, many of whom having done all they can to get Sven-Goran Eriksson the sack.
With England securing first place in Group Six and qualifying for the World Cup finals without the worry beads being used, Eriksson has a strong argument that he is not doing that bad a job for his adopted country.
No team in a six-team group scored more than England's 25 points either.
The Eriksson critics were always likely to end up with egg on their faces, the general media response now is to "wait and see how we do in the finals next summer."
Expressen, though, is waving the flag for its fellow countryman with the slogan, "Don't touch our Svennis" -- Eriksson's Swedish nickname.
Expressen said Eriksson was worthy of a medal from the Queen and said Her Majesty's press "do not understand that he has turned a bunch of bone breakers on muddy football pitches into a World Cup team. They cannot see that he has introduced tactical subtleties into the game and taught Beckham & Co. winning Swedish strategies."
Tommy Schonstedt, taking a leaf out of Sepp Blatter's spears-versus-warheads analogy, wrote in Expressen: "They really have gone too far now. We have had enough now. This means war now. The English should be bowing deeply and thanking Sven-Goran Eriksson. Instead they bully and mock him. But after yesterday we say: 'Put that in your pipe and smoke it!' "
England finished the campaign on a high note beating Poland 2-1 in Manchester.
Brazil remains the obvious favorite for next summer's World Cup, though England comes into the next category of teams who, if they are at full strength and enjoy the breaks all successful sides need, can be confident of making a significant impact.
"We're very confident ahead of Germany, I wouldn't swap our squad for anyone else's," said Michael Owen, which might raise a smile in Rio de Janeiro.
"We've got a good team and a good squad and although you always need luck, we feel we've got a really good chance."
Maybe, just maybe, Eriksson's critics will be smoking the pipe of peace with him next summer.
Christopher Davies covers Arsenal and the Republic of Ireland for the London Daily Telegraph.