Friday 28 October 2016

Duff quits but Sepp to fight on

Damien Duff retired yesterday. Without doubt, one of the most honest men ever to grace a football pitch called it quits on the same day Sepp Blatter tried to fool everyone again.

Poor Sepp had a three day growth when he shuffled in front of what could well be his last major press conference. Normally dapper, this was an affectation for the cameras. Everything else was too.

Duffer probably told Shamrock Rovers to slip his retirement announcement onto their website home page hoping that it would get lost in the whirlpool of general madness afflicting the game in England and internationally.

He was and is everything Blatter is not. First and foremost he was a player and hated formality. He only wore a blazer if he absolutely had to.

That's his way. Self-effacing, honest and scornful of the trappings of fame, Duff wouldn't fit in at the top of FIFA.

The image Blatter wanted to project was of a sickly but plucky old man, betrayed by internal politics and the victim of a FIFA heave against prospective presidential candidate Michael Platini (below).

No mention of any of the horrors emerging on a daily basis about FIFA other than a garbled few sentences about people being arrested in South America.

Not a word about the men now facing long custodial sentences because of work done by the FBI and the ongoing disintegration of the organisation he ran like a political party for so long.

His remorse was for himself. In his weird little world, nothing he did during his time as FIFA president was untoward. Everything was for the good of football and if people got rich along the way, sure what could he do about it?

It was a pathetic performance really, the last kick of a dying power, but he still should not be underestimated.

As is the way in these things, Blatter's main audience was not the wider world, the FBI or the journalists he was speaking to.

He was addressing the parish pump, the same people he sent a personal letter to last week appealing for their support.

Individuals in national associations he has helped with grants, particularly in Africa, and among small and in football terms, insignificant members of FIFA, may have a very different view of the man than the rest of us.


But his goose is cooked. For all his protestations of innocence and rectitude, the grubby little deal he did with Platini now carries a strong whiff even if the Ethics Committee didn't suggest corruption.

We already know from Blatter's dealings with the FAI that he seems to have been able to release large sums of money with a word.

Both Blatter and Platini are ready to appeal and deny that there was anything wrong about the financial arrangement but nobody believes them. That battle is lost.

So, it would seem, is Platini's run at the FIFA presidency and it remains to be seen whether he can continue as UEFA top man.

Taking the FIFA Ethics Committee at its word, banned from all football activities for eight years would seem to stop him doing his current job with UEFA .

It would certainly stop him from publicly canvassing for the FIFA presidential position which will be filled at the Extraordinary Congress on February 26.

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