7 June ~ A huge thank you is in order to Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation, for saying what other football administrators merely think. "I don't think taking the moral high ground is the right thing to do," he told ESPN on Saturday during the half-time interval of the US-Spain friendly in Boston. The question? Why did he not uphold what ESPN panellist Alexi Lalas had termed "American values of fairness and honesty" and vote against Sepp Blatter in last week's FIFA presidential election?

It's only fair to provide more context, but that context doesn't make Gulati look anything more than a gutless bureaucrat with the rhetorical cogency of a stammering boy caught playing pocket billiards in church by the Mother Superior. "We didn't think it made sense to abstain," said Gulati, "and we decided to vote for president Blatter." President Blatter? Let's just call him His Excellency and be done with it.

"We support a lot of reforms," Gulati continued, "even beyond where he's willing to go right now, and we thought that was the best way to move forward." Yes, Sepp Blatter, who has done a brilliant job clearing out corruption in world football over his first 13 years in office, is just the man FIFA needs for self-reform. Gulati maintained the US "will do everything we can to influence" reform "across a number of different areas", including corruption and governance issues. Even by the standards of a fawning, third-rate functionary like Gulati, that's vague. Blatter, he said, has pledged "to try and do some things that are different". Indeed, Blatter has always been a man of his word, a gargantuan embodiment of integrity guaranteed to stand by his bronze-forged promises.
And then, Gulati's crowning moment: "Abstention in this case doesn't do anything, it doesn't send a message. You take the moral high ground, it's fine unless you're standing on quicksand." That's the key metaphor – quicksand. And that's why so few nations joined England and Scotland in abstaining from Blatter's depressingly inevitable re-election. Pragmatic self-interest, you might argue. The alternative is to vote against the autocrat in a one-man election, and then we sink without trace. Or, put more bluntly, we think we'd scupper US chances in a possible revote on the 2022 World Cup hosting rights.

Paradoxically, it must have taken a lot of courage for Gulati to go on national TV and admit that he's a moral coward. Not that we should be surprised, as he's also voted in past years for the continued, unopposed re-election of proven FIFA ethics violator Jack Warner as head of Concacaf, the North and Central American football confederation. This is, after all, how world football is governed – by nothing more than the fear of losing FIFA favours because you incurred the wrath of the strong men.
Gulati's shabby interview was perfectly mirrored by the spineless performance of the US team that lost 4-0 to Spain. Like the US, his defence was weak, he had no ideas going forward and his overall showing was stale and uninspired. His shameless, mealy-mouthed amoralism was a perfect illustration of why neither he nor Blatter, nor the vast majority of their colleagues, should be there to oversee reform or revolution at FIFA. Instead, they should make the strong moral choice and step out for a walk to test the quicksand. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (7)
Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-06-07 13:35:11

Vote for an ageing deluded nutter - or abstain. That was the choice. Not much of a choice, was it?

Surely there is somebody out there with at least a passing interest in football, and some spare time on their hands, preferably under the age of eighty and still of sound mind and body, who fancies being FIFA President? Well why don't they put their names forward then? How come Sepp can get in completely un-opposed? It don't make no sense to me...

I've half a mind to stand for FIFA President myself, next time round. If Sepp is the only competition that the entire world of football can muster, I reckon I could be in with a shout.

Comment by TheRedMax 2011-06-07 13:56:17

I think the rest of the footballing world might have had a more sympathetic ear to The FA's pleas if the 4 "Home" nations were not themselves clinging on to their own privileged positions in the 1st Class carriages of the FIFA gravy train.
Until such time as they give up their honorary vice-presidency and seats on IFAB which they guard so jealously, they cant expect the rest of the world to take them seriously.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2011-06-07 14:23:39

What page are you reading, TheRedMax?

Comment by Lincoln 2011-06-07 15:48:41

I think they would have got more support if they actually were protesting at something. It looks like the English FA are protesting at not having the World Cup 2018.
Developing nations benefit hugely from FIFA and it is the money from FIFA that keeps them going. They are unlikely to want to vote out Blatter who keeps that money going. They are even less likely to back a European led campaign that would see the world cup return to the more Euro-centric 16 teams and have power go back to here.

Comment by jasoñ voorhees 2011-06-07 19:00:33

Awesome, ian.

Comment by madmickyf 2011-06-08 05:59:03

Great article, unfortunately Gulati was not alone in his cowardice - the Football Federation of Australia was another ruling body which decided that the best way forward was to vote for 'Supreme Leader' Blatter.

Then veteran commentator Les Murray (who is also on the FIFA ethics committee) pops up to tell us that "The people who are critical of the FFA voting for Sepp Blatter in this case ought to get a reality check. FFA chairman Frank Lowy has been put in charge of Australian football, not in order to take the high ground but to look after the interests of Australian football whatever they are in his opinion"

Good to see there are so many people in FIFA who believe in keeping the feudal system alive. We peasants just need to keep paying our money and let these important men do all the thinking for us!

Comment by SoccerLimey 2011-06-12 17:44:11

The facts are that most of the administrators that run our sport, and I'm referring to all levels, are cut from the same cloth, and are interested, ultimatley, in only perpetuating their own existence in the post thay hold.

To vote for Blatter is a crime to the fans of the game in the US. It affirms Blatter's policies and methods, and is borne out of nothing else but sheer fear. Fear of the sword of FIFA coming down on top of Gulati and his administration. None of these weak-kneed clowns have any integrity or character whatsoever, and they are not alone.

These people sour our game and the smell is becoming sickening.

Welcome back to The Dark Ages.

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