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armchair centre back :: now what?

“Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.”

-t.s eliot the wasteland, 1922 and kate macdonald upon hearing of sepp blatter's resignation, 2015

indeed, reading that evil bastard fifa president sepp blatter had decided to remove himself from the head of world football's body of overlords, i felt as if my brain had just slipped into a pair of comfy pants with a forgiving elastic waistband. ding dong, the witch is dead and all. of course it does make me wonder what exactly is coming down the pike that he felt the need to leave just days after being re-elected with a massive majority of votes. if i were paranoid, i'd say that something awful was about to be revealed, which would have to be more awful than all the stuff we've already heard, which would be very, very awful indeed. or if i were even more paranoid, i'd say that he'd always intended to resign, but stood for election in order to block a progressive candidate from taking over and opening up the field to a successor he actually likes. but i'm only paranoid on the weekends, so i'm going to pretend that neither of those things is possible. [you know, those things are not mutually exclusive. -ed.]

finding a new president in the middle of a term, or ten minutes into it, is an extraordinary event that requires an extraordinary convention and fifa's board will meet on july 20th to figure out how exactly they're going to get themselves out of this public relations pickle and to set a date for a new coronation election. there's a party i'd like to attend.

there are a lot of names being bandied around as a potential successor to blatter and since the dickhead man himself won't be in the mix, it is indeed a more open field than usual. of course, it's the same damned people voting in this round who gave blatter his landslide as some of his closest friends were being hauled away in handcuffs. a lot of these people seem pretty impervious to the opinions of other people, especially the billions [yes, billions] of fans of the sport they oversee. i guess the walls of money that surround them offer some pretty effective insulation. so i wouldn't expect calls for revolution from this group. 

i'd like to think that the fifa membership will do the right thing, but that isn't exactly their modus operandi. for the moment, here are my thoughts on a few of the figures who are assembling in the shadows to vie for the position of guy who tries to hold everything together as the shitstorm hits its peak. 

the front-runners :: 
the guys who are considered obvious candidates.

some day our prince will come back
prince ali bin al-hussein

as the only guy with the stones to actually challenge blatter last time, he's the most likely to run. 

might win because... he has a strong history of both involvement in the sport and the precarious international politics the is world soccer. he has already assembled a support base and while it couldn't rival blatter's, it's not insignificant. he's the sort of fresh, reformist face that fifa need to put out there and, being from the middle east himself, he's a great person to counter qatar's arguments that criticism of their mass murder-y world cup preparations are based on racism. 

might not win because... he barely assembled more than a third of the total vote when he was one of only two candidates running. his own federation is trying to get him removed from the fifa executive because the really don't want someone there pushing for change. his european base could desert him for another candidate and it's not likely that he'll be able to expand his base in other parts of the world enough to offset that loss. 

finger pointer in chief
michael platini

the head of the european football federation and the man who basically served as prince ali's campaign manager. he's been uninhibited in his criticism of blatter in recent years and his threat to withdraw europe from world cups held under blatter's watch likely played a huge role in the man's decision to resign. 

might win because... he's been the highest-profile voice against blatter. he's the head of the most important association in the world. he's spoken out on the need for meaningful, visible reform. none of the money laundering scandals have touched him in any way. 

might not win because... he voted for qatar to host the 2022 world cup. while it's not related to the criminal charges that have been laid, it's widely [and correctly] perceived that the decision to give fifa's crown jewel to qatar is the most embarrassing thing the organisation has ever done and that bar is set pretty high. even if he's not tied to specific instances of corruption, he's been around fifa a long time and didn't start speaking out until comparatively recently. 

the insiders ::

less obvious but well-known in fifa circles nonetheless.  

we have ways of making you vote
sheikh salman bin ebrahim al-khalifa

the head of the asian football federation, he's a powerful figure in the insular world of fifa.  

might win because... he was instrumental in securing support for sepp blatter in the past presidential election and he obviously did a good job. he hasn't been touched by any of the financial scandals that have come out in recent weeks. he's the sort of candidate who will make the old guard feel at ease. raising the profile of the sport in asia is fifa's most important financial goal. 

might not win because... he'd be a worse choice than sepp blatter. he's been accused of torturing people, including soccer players. he would not allow any sort of re-evaluation of qatar's world cup. europe despises him and while he might not need their votes, he can't handle having them blockade fifa. 

what's the big deal?
issa hayatou

fifa's senior vice president, he's the person to whom the job would fall by default if there wasn't another election. 

might win because... he has massive support in africa, which represents a lot of votes. he's comfortable with the politics of fifa. he ran against sepp blatter for president at one point, but put that behind him and became his closest ally, which shows that he's capable of letting go of a grudge. 

might not win because... he might be in jail by the time the vote is held. it's widely suspected that he'll be the next "big fish" brought down in the fifa scandal. electing sepp blatter's right hand would be among the worst messages that fifa could send to the world. 

you don't know who i am, and that's good
alfredo hawit

the head of the honduran soccer association recently got thrust into the role of president of concacaf, the federation of north and central america. the women's world cup is currently unfolding on his home turf, so he's getting a lot of spotlight lately. 

might win because... the rush of attention is going to make him look like an exciting option. he's spoken up for some reforms on the length of time executive committee members can serve, which was seen as a sly swipe at his predecessor jeffrey webb. i'm betting a lot of people at fifa are wishing they'd listened to him. he's not been outspoken on reforms, though, so he's not going to be too jarring. he comes from a small country and conference, which will make others in the same situation feel more comfortable with him. 

might not win because... no one from a federation in the americas is going to be the next president of fifa. they all either seem to be getting arrested or doing the arresting and fifa is not going to want to go fishing in that pool until they're well sure that it isn't going to come back and bite them in the ass. no one knows who the hell he is. 

the people's favourites ::

faces from the world of football who are likely to be most popular among fans, but who still have a legitimate shot at the presidency. 

if i can't win, i don't want to play
luis figo

a popular player from portugal who originally stood against blatter in the recent election, before withdrawing with a scathing critique of the organisation and its corruption on the eve of the arrests. 

might win because... he's worked his whole life in the sport and has lost none of his passion for it. electing someone who's in it for the love of the game would be a good signal that fifa is ready to clean house. he's repudiated the politics of the organisation and called for reform, which is exactly what most people want to hear. 

might not win because... he had little support last time and there's no reason to think he's become more popular with the fifa voters. his tirade against the corruption and politics of the organisation might have made him look noble, but it also makes him look like he can't work with others. make no mistake, the presidency of fifa is a political job, and sooner or later, you need to learn to work with people you don't like very much. 

may have tried the kylie jenner challenge
diego maradona

a contender for the title of best damn player in history and sepp blatter's highest profile critic. he was doing interviews nearly daily coming up to the last election, tearing away at blatter and his cronies. 

might win because... he's kind of a living god in the sport. he'd be an excellent peace offering from fifa to their disenchanted fans. 

might not win because... he has absolutely no experience with this sort of job. while fifa might like the idea of having a figurehead president, maradona is strong-willed an opinionated and they have to know they'd be unable to control him. and while it shouldn't matter, some recent plastic surgery has left the great man looking like a drag queen, and not in a good way.

the man-candy-date
george weah

a former world footballer of the year and african player of the century who has transformed himself into a pretty successful politician in his home country of liberia. 

might win because... in africa, he's more popular than maradona. he knows both the sport and politics, but he's completely untouched by fifa's filth. he is a living embodiment of the "fifa dream": a kid from the slums who was able to rise to the pinnacle of the sport through skill and determination. he's had to work hard at his political career, taking a lot of criticism initially for his lack of formal education and experience, but he stuck with it. 

might not win because... his heart seems to lie with his home country right now. he hasn't evinced any interest in joining the fifa party, whereas he was elected to the liberian senate last year. he converted to islam and then converted back to christianity, which will not sit well with more conservative middle eastern nations.

the outsiders ::

technically, fifa's rules don't allow for a true outsider- someone who hasn't been directly involved in the sport within the last few years- to run for president. but there's a chance that, rather than moving to an election, the executive could decide to appoint a caretaker to get them through their rough patch. that's where these guys come in. 

i kind of look like mandela and morgan freeman too.
kofi annan

head of the united nations during some of its most difficult years. the united nations has to be good training for fifa. 

he might win because... he's a consummate diplomat who's respected in africa and much of europe. he's had to deal with life and death situations in the past, so sport really shouldn't seem that stressful for him. 

he might not win because... his tenure as leader of the u.n. was hampered by a corruption scandal, which is the last thing that fifa needs. america, which has emerged as the unlikely hero of world soccer, hates him, because he was the chief opponent of george w. bush's push to invade iraq, and for some reason, that's thought of as a bad thing.

c'mon, give us a chance.
mitt romney

don't kid yourself. before he was the "47%" punchline in the 2012 american election, romney stepped in to save the olympics from exactly this sort of scandalous disaster and he did a pretty fine job of it. the olympics is probably the closest thing that exists to fifa, so it's even better training than the united nations. 

might win because... his olympic experience could make him the most qualified person in the entire world for the job. he's the only person who can say "i've done this sort of thing before". with all the criticism leveled at him during the 2012 electoral campaign, no one accused him of any kind of corruption. appointing him to clear up the mess would make the americans very happy and fifa really, really want to increase their profile in america. if he comes in and does the job at fifa now, his legacy will be as the guy who saved both of the biggest events in the world and not the guy who lost to barack obama in 2012. 

might not win because... he probably couldn't give a shit about world soccer. at the moment, no one remembers the olympics, they just remember the losing, to say nothing of the long, damaging road to the republican nomination where it looked like his party wanted anyone but him as their candidate. people in the world of sport like winners. he made a lot of comments during the 2012 election campaign that will not sit well with fifa's muslim members [assuming they remember them].

there are other candidates who may emerge, and some of these guys are unlikely to emerge at all, but such is the nature of the beast. my personal preference still lies with prince ali, although if weah were to mount a surprise run, it'd be a tough choice. while i wasn't a fan of romney as a presidential candidate, my arguments with him there don't carry over to the world of fifa. he wouldn't be a long-term solution, but fifa needs to concentrate on the present debacle first. it would be interesting to see how a female candidate- most likely burundi's lydia nsekera- would be received, but i don't think we're there yet. [and being female doesn't mean that nsekera is a reformer, either. remember that africa were blatter's biggest supporters.] whatever happens, i'm betting that qatar will lose their world cup one way or the other.

well hello there
i'm going to be obsessing over this, since it combines soccer and politics, which for a lot of people would be like winning your ideal home and then finding out that you're sharing it with the person of your dreams. and besides, it will help keep dom and me entertained over the summer when we don't have the premier league to keep us company. well, to be fair, there's also the south american cope america in chile, the women's world cup here in canada and, of course, "silly season", where the world soccer press speculates that every single high-profile player is moving to every single high-profile team for two months, which ends in everyone feeling like the transfer season was a bit of a letdown. 

to that end, i'm rather chuffed that swansea city yesterday announced the signing of sought-after forward andre ayew. i like what i've seen of him, which admittedly isn't much, and i really like his comments about the move, about how he felt like he was joining a team on the rise and with an eye for the future. i was also happy to see that bafétimbi gomis played a big role in bringing his fellow frenchman on board, reassuring him about the great playing atmosphere, the team dynamic and their young manager. [in fact gomis, who earlier this year sounded a little iffy about staying with swansea at all, has become their most vocal proponent and very nearly beat the team in welcoming ayew to south wales on social media.]

only god could stop us!!!
since we're also arsenal fans, we're also waiting for the annual "will he or won't he" wenger spending money dance. rumours are swirling that alexis sanchez might be returning from the copa america with teammate arturo vidal in tow. vidal would be a wonderful addition, although one has to wonder where wenger is going to put all his talented midfielders, since he seems loathe [with good reason] to part with any of them. of course, every time you see arsenal's name associated with a player, manchester united start chasing them, which is like that irritating dork in primary school who always copied your homework and your tests and got good grades from your hard studying, except that in this case, it's considered a perfectly valid way to conduct business. this is yet another way in which i think that sport is a very effective instructor for children on how really terrible behaviour that gets you in trouble at school will be the fastest route to success in the adult world.


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