Friday, November 24, 2006
FIFA Flexes its Muscles
FIFA's intransigence in the matter of government interference in football administration is well known. For the most part, it must be said, they ban national associations for the right reasons. Those familiar with the politics of Greek football assured me that the recent sanctions against the Greek FA were regrettable, but richly deserved.
Having said that, the threats of the Soccer Australia "rump board" to invoke FIFA sanctions in 2003 over the implementation of the Crawford Report showed that there are some paradoxical features in FIFA's hardline stance on governmental "interference". Governmental pressure is not always to the detriment of the game.
In the current case, it would seem that FIFA have made the right decision.
Mohammad Dadkan, the federation president, was sacked following Iran's indifferent World Cup performance, to be replaced - ominously - by the head of a government organisation. With FIFA sanctions looming, Dadkan even offered to resign to salvage the situation, to no avail.
One would expect the Iranians, with their proud football history, to be keen to put their house in order. But with a hardline theocratic government in charge (and apparently determined to meddle in all aspects of public life), who knows how long the ban will last.
We have joined the AFC in an interesting period. With an undercurrent of Islamic radicalism spreading throughout many of the Arab nations, Australia, with its close political connections to the U.S., may not be a welcome addition in some quarters. There are rumours that the AFC may eventually split along predictable ethnic and cultural lines (with Australia, of course, staying with the eastern "half"); perhaps today's events represent another straw in the wind.
Thankyou for this post Mike, but with respect, please indicate from where "rumours that the AFC may eventually split along predictable ethnic and cultural lines" come from. I'm not doubting you, but once you're on this political territory I think it becomes extremely important to source every major point.
International football is in my mind one of the greatest weapons the world has in undermining, at the grass-roots, totalitarian regimes. And like Rock 'n Roll, it is here to stay.
I normally do Hamish, as you know; in this case it comes from a source within FIFA, whom (for a variety of reasons) I can't name.
You can't help but wonder whether current world political gunk could seep into the AFC, despite FIFA and perhaps the football world in general's attempts to keep the game at arms length.
Let alone how welcome we are in substantial parts of this confederation...but I guess the fact we were allowed entry into the confed in the first place (an event which still bewilders me to be honest) is a good sign that it is yet to really impact.
Perhaps I'm naive. Perhaps it was simply a matter of the Middle Eastern nations not having enough clout to stifle our entry.
An eventual split wouldn't surprise me at all though. Indeed, if the AFC - which would have to be the most, err, 'culturally and politically diverse' confederation in FIFA - is to maintain solidarity, somewhat impervious to world political affairs, it would have to be quite miraculous.
We all know that "politics and sport don't mix", and it could probably be suggested that FIFA see keeping global politics and the game separate as an important priority. And to a degree, successfully, yeah?
I also get the impression that even Osama Bin Laden sees taking his crusade into the football sphere as somewhat sacreligious.
But then again, we all live in the real world too, so...
This was the explanation when we joined the AFC. I'm not saying we 'bought' our way in, but our status as a stable and wealthy first world nation is what seemed to win the day.
A split may become necessary in the future because the AFC represents such a huge area and a massive chunk of the global population (about 3.7 billion and counting!)
However, if we consider the way FIFA promotes itself and its stated aims, IMO they would be very wary of the AFC splitting into Western & Eastern Asia because it could easily be perceived as a religious division. (ie EAFF+ASEAN being Christianity, WAFF+CAFF being Islam). Not a good look for football in these troubled times.... :(
I'll be following this Iran ban with interest so yes, please keep writing about it. Cheers