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Saturday 10 December 2016

Gerry O'Carroll: FIFA scandal gives FAI chance to lead way in cleaning up the beautiful game

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter
Leaving Cert students sit an exam
Competitors at the Women's Mini-Marathon
Cardinal Pietro Parolin

THE arrests of a number of FIFA officials and the scale of global investigation into corruption at the body have shaken the football world in recent days.

Several officials have been charged with crimes such as bribery, corruption, money laundering and fraud.

The indictment runs to 164 pages.

The Swiss launched a separate criminal investigation into the awarding by FIFA of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch described the corruption racket as "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted", amounting to $151m (€135m) in bribes and kickbacks.

Yesterday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigned. It wasn't surprising - he had to go.

The soccer world has suspected for many years that FIFA was a cesspool of corruption. South Africa, the host of the 2010 World Cup, has denied paying out millions in bribes to FIFA officials for their support in securing a successful bid.

Incredibly, following all this shame and humiliation, the incumbent Blatter was re-elected as FIFA president last Friday.

It was a short reign. He resigned after days of dismissing calls for his resignation, saying his mandate did not appear to be supported by everybody - you don't say, Mr Blatter.

Even after the events of last week, Blatter continued to insist he was the best man to lead FIFA forward, stating that he would bring the boat ashore.

Despite his defiant stance and his fighting talk, Blatter obviously realised in recent days that his time at the top of the organisation was drawing to an end.

Presiding over an organisation in utter crisis, he was completely discredited.

The corruption occurred on his watch and, as a result, he is left without a shred of credibility.

A group of his colleagues at FIFA have corrupted the "beautiful game" of world soccer with bribery, money laundering and corrupt payments.

They have engaged in a worldwide criminal conspiracy that has tarnished and smeared the sport.

Now is the time for UEFA and all the other soccer organisations that have opposed Blatter and his supporters at FIFA to take a courageous decision for the good of the game.

Soccer's governing bodies around the world, including the FAI, should consider a boycott of the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

The Qatar authorities have committed appalling human rights violations and presided over horrendous working conditions amounting to the slavery of thousands of migrant workers who are engaged in building the stadium and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.

The finals should not be held there.

There's no reason why the FAI can't lead the way on this matter.

 

Decades later, I still have nightmares about sitting my Leaving Cert exam

SOME 56,000 Leaving Cert students will go through the doors of exam centres around the country today.

For many of these young people it will be the most gruelling and stressful period yet encountered in their young lives.

Today marks the culmination of up to six years of secondary school education.

Over the next couple of weeks, students' powers of recall will be tested to the limit - as will their analytical skills.

The exam is an important milestone that can play a vital part in students' lives and have a major impact on their future careers. It's also an anxious and stressful time for parents.

Even old timers like me, who sat the exam many moons ago, always remember what it was like.

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In fact, the Leaving Cert remains one of the few events in my life that I still have nightmares about. In my day, exam opportunities were very limited and we had only one bite at the cherry, unlike today. A university education was not an option for the majority of us.

If one didn't succeed in getting a job in the public service as a teacher or a garda, it was the boat for England - and that was where I ended up for a few years after the Leaving Cert.

Thank God those times have changed. Now-adays, students have a wider choice. If they don't achieve their required points, there are many third-level institutions where they can further their careers.

The Leaving Cert is no longer the be all and end all. In fact, many of Ireland's most successful business people and public figures didn't make a great fist of the exam at all. Every student should bear that in mind today. Good luck to them all.

 

Well done to all who braved the Irish summer

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IT's one thing to run a 10km race, but it's something else to brave gale-force winds and driving rain to do so.

So I doff my cap to the 37,000 runners, including the two above, who lined out in Dublin on Monday for the Vhi Women's Mini Marathon.

It was incredible to see so many on the streets - and getting into a celebratory mood too - in the face of the wintry weather.

These brave runners ranged in age from 14 up to one lady who is 90 - so there's hope for us all yet.

The event is the biggest of its kind in the world - another first for this little country of ours.

As well as the fun and sense of achievement, these women raised millions of euro in sponsorship for very deserving charities.

Congratulations to all who took part - there were no losers in this race, only winners.

 

Hero

 

The LE Eithne and its crew are carrying out marvellous humanitarian work off the coast of Libya. Last week they rescued hundreds of migrants from stricken vessels in the Mediterranean. We can feel justly proud that our small naval force is leading the way in Europe's response to this humanitarian crisis. Well done to all involved.

Zero

Pietro Parolin.jpg
Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin made an extraordinary - and grossly offensive - comment about Ireland by stating that legalising gay marriage was "a defeat for humanity".  Thank God retired Bishop Willie Walsh said this was wrong and that he doubted if Pope Francis shared  Parolin's sentiment.

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