Early Doors

An open letter to Sepp Blatter

Early Doors

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Dear Sepp,

Hope this finds you well at FIFA HQ. Early Doors' last letter, sent to you regarding corruption, was dealt with by a delightful man named Placido Domingo. Oh how we laughed when we realised he had the same name as that singer. Clearly it wasn't though, it must have been one of your crack agents removing endemic corruption from the game. Anyway, on to the matter at hand...

Sepp, it has come to ED's attention that yesterday you made some rather contentious comments regarding racism in football. Quelle surprise you might say - and many have. After all, this isn't the first time you have put your foot firmly in that grinning mouth of yours, is it?

God knows your constant stream of ridiculous public statements have provided perfect fodder for ED over the years. What would ED do without you, dear friend?

Who could forget when you hilariously said the following about women's football in 2004: "Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men - such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?"

Oh dear. Cheapening what is a flourishing sport - and one which thousands of people have worked so hard to grow as a legitimate concern - was a bit naughty, wasn't it? Some said it was sexism, but hey, that's probably not the worst -ism is it? At least not according to those who found great humour in your comments. At the time they seemed silly, but quirky. Adorable, out-of-touch Sepp was at it again.

Having proven accomplished in the field of gender politics, ED then greatly enjoyed it when you turned your attentions to economics, and specifically a certain system called slavery.

Dear Sepp, you must remember that balmy summer of 2008, when Manchester United were telling a superbly remunerated Cristiano Ronaldo that he would have to suffer the indignity of remaining at one of Europe's grand clubs. Remember what you said, Sepp?

"I'm always in favour of protecting the player and if the player, he wants to leave, let him leave. I think in football there's too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere."

Oh how we giggled again at the image of a diamond-bedecked Ronaldo as a slave. Once again your capacity to trivialise proved unrivalled. Just the behaviour we expected of a man entrusted with the future of the world's game.

Now, Sepp, you know very well that things went seriously wrong this summer. In the face of a mounting corruption scandal to hit FIFA, you angered just about everyone in the football community - who wasn't a member of FIFA's executive committee at least - by presiding over an election in which you were the only candidate.

Even then, the balls you showed to emulate Robert Mugabe - a man who coincidentally you were happy to be pictured shaking hands with only in June, ironic given your recent comments - were, in a perverse way, somewhat impressive, if hugely detrimental to the reputation of football. Certainly the way in which you completely disregarded overwhelming public opinion to forge ahead with your own agenda showed determination of sorts.

But, Sepp, this latest controversy we cannot forgive. Not when the president of football's governing body suggests that racism does not exist in the modern game and that if it does occur on the pitch, then those who are subjected to demeaning, offensive comments - which reinforce hundreds of years of abhorrent discrimination - should merely brush them aside and offer a handshake to the perpetrator.

This, Sepp old chap, is a step too far - even for you.

Because you have provided no end of material for ED over the years, ED will print your subsequent clarification of your comments to let you tell your side of the story, as laughable and damaging as your initial take on the matter was.

"I would like to make it very clear, I am committed to the fight against racism and any type of discrimination in football and in society. I have been personally leading this battle against racism in football, which FIFA has been fighting against throughout the past years through campaigns in all of our competitions such as the 'Say no to racism' campaign.

"I also know that racism unfortunately continues to exist in football, and I have never denied this. I know that it is a big problem in society, and that it also affects sport. I strongly believe that we should continue to fight all together against racism on and off the field of play, in order to eradicate this plague.

"My comments have been misunderstood. What I wanted to express is that, as football players, during a match, you have 'battles' with your opponents, and sometimes things are done which are wrong. But, normally, at the end of the match, you apologise to your opponent if you had a confrontation during the match, you shake hands, and when the game is over, it is over. Anyone who has played a football match, or a match in any sport, knows that this is the case."

This statement might have carried slightly more weight had it not been accompanied by a picture of you hugging a black man. Seriously. Sepp, just who is your PR adviser these days? Were they on holiday this week?

Somehow you survived, clinging on to that throne of yours, when you demeaned women footballers, when you belittled the disastrous legacy of slavery and when you showed such scant regard for the democratic process when pushing through your re-election. But Sepp, this really should be the end.

You are the president of the world game yet have told the millions of players under your control that on-field racism is not an issue, and can be solved by a mere handshake. It is no surprise whatsoever that your lamentable and frankly frightening attitude has been questioned by a leading player like Manchester United and England's Rio Ferdinand. Hopefully more will follow.

"I feel stupid for thinking that football was taking a leading role against racism," Ferdinand said on Twitter. "Just for clarity if a player abuses a referee, does a shake of the hand after the game wipe the slate clean?? (Blatter's) comments on racism are so condescending its almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?"

It is a long time, Sepp, since one could say with a straight face that you are a fit guardian of the game, and we all know you have been wildly out of touch for years now. However, this must surely be the straw that breaks the camel's back. You can hug as many black men as you want for a nice photo opportunity, but these comments - undermining all the good work that bodies like Kick It Out do - are unjustifiable and reprehensible and should spell the end of your onerous reign.

It pains ED to say it given we are likely to struggle for something to write about when you do eventually vacate FIFA HQ, but Sepp, it's time to go. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

- - -

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COMING UP: We have a video feature on former West Ham, Arsenal and Celtic striker John Hartson coming up, while our latest Eurospot column reveals why Germany are the new kings of cool at lunchtime.

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