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My Dirty Little Secret

by Michael Huguenin on Jun 05, 2011

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Apparently Sepp Blatter’s re-election as FIFA President should dismay every lover of the beautiful game. But what about if you couldn’t care less?

First he was going to be re-elected unopposed.

My reaction: Who cares?

Then Mohammed Bin Hammam was going to stand against him.

My reaction: What’s the difference?

Then the mud slinging started.

My reaction: Can’t wait for the Champions League Final.

Then Bin Hammam withdrew.

My reaction: Pfff…

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On Wednesday Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA President for a fourth four-year term. This election has been plagued by controversy and innuendo from the get-go. In fact FIFA has had a very tough six months in terms of its media profile. There was the Panorama exclusive, the dual World Cup vote with its ‘surprising’ results, allegations of corruption…you name it, FIFA’s copped it.

Numerous football pundits, including my fellow GGArmy bloggers Sebastian Hassett and Adam Peacock, have written scathing pieces about FIFA and Blatter. I’ve read a lot about it and do you want to hear my dirty little secret…?

I don’t care.

I feel like I should. I feel like it should be important but in the end as long as football keeps rolling along (in terms of what we see on the field) then I couldn’t care less about a bunch of overpaid suits in Switzerland.

Sebastian finished his most recent blog with this line:

“How sad for anyone who loves the beautiful game.”

But I love the beautiful game and I didn’t feel sad. Not one bit.

Sepp Blatter being FIFA President won’t stop Lionel Messi from showing everybody the best of the beautiful game, like he did last weekend against Manchester United. And if the Dalai Lama was FIFA President, it’s not as if Messi would be even better.

Last Saturday’s UEFA Champions League Final was a reminder of all that is good about football in my opinion. Not just because of Barcelona’s brilliant performance. The first half was a riveting contest with some great defensive play (Vidic’s last ditch tackle on Messi in the penalty box was sublime), controlled refereeing and, for the most part, a focus on playing football rather than diving or rash tackles. The second half in terms of a contest was maybe less impressive because of Barca’s dominance but it was breath-taking to see a top-quality team like Manchester United outplayed in all areas. The Catalans were brilliant.

We also had some great heart-warming moments after the match. Eric Abidal lifting the Champions League trophy only a few months after having surgery for a tumour on his liver was a great image but something that I was particularly impressed with was Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments after the game. Ferguson rated Barca as the best side he’d ever faced in his 25 years in charge of United.

Here is one of Ferguson’s quotes from PA Sport:

“In my time as a manager it is the best team we have faced. I think everyone acknowledges that. I accept that. It's not easy when you have been well beaten like that to think any other way. No one has given us a hiding like that. It's a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and they enjoy their football. They mesmerise you with their passing.”

Ferguson is rarely credited for being a good loser but I felt his comments there were great to read and really exemplified how just about everybody I spoke to felt about Barcelona’s performance.

Even Manchester United supporters simply agreed, Barcelona were the better team and deserved to win. Plus it was a joy to watch them do it.

That’s why, when I see a game like the Champions League Final I feel that what happens at FIFA HQ in Geneva has, in the grand scheme of things, very little bearing on what we as football supporters get out of the game. I can’t shake this feeling of apathy about Blatter, Warner or Bin Hammam.

And it’s not just the Champions League that keeps me positive about football. As an Australian football supporter there’s plenty to focus on rather than worrying about FIFA elections.

At the end of this month our national women’s team, the Matildas, will compete at the Women’s World Cup in Germany. After a quarterfinal spot four years ago, the girls are keen to at least replicate that result this time around. Youngsters Samantha Kerr and Kyah Simon are incredibly exciting to watch and it will be well worth checking out how the Matildas go.

Australian football fans will have more reasons to clock up late night TV hours both before and after the Women’s World Cup. First the U17 World Cup is in Mexico. Our Joeys are in a tough group with Ivory Coast, Brazil and Denmark. Perth Glory’s new starlet Jesse Makarounas will be worth a look if you’re interested in the future of the Socceroos.

Then at the end of July the U20 World Cup will be held in Columbia. Our Young Socceroos have impressed a lot of people recently and it’ll be great to see Matthew Leckie, Tommy Oar et al try and live up to expectations against Ecuador, Costa Rica and Spain.

Football like most sport, but probably more than any other, is a reflection of life. Things aren’t always fair. Sometimes they’re even a bit dodgy. There are people in football with deep pockets full of money and there are people in football who achieve great success with two bucks and a piece of string.

But in the end, as in life, football rolls on despite what the suits in ivory towers do. The normal people (and even the less normal people like Messi) continue to do what they love. They play, watch and talk about football. And in the end when we mean football we mean 11 vs. 11 on a piece of green grass (or, if you live in Africa, a patch of dirt) each team trying to score more than the other.

As long as that part of football remains I couldn’t care less who sits on FIFA’s throne.