Instead of a red card, a red carpet

Russia should be removed as host of next year’s World Cup. It’s as simple as that. Straight red for team red, early shower, off.

It won’t happen, of course. Every time it is asked, FIFA bangs on about what a wonderful tournament it is going to be. When questions persists, FIFA says, wait, heh, look over there, Australia. We mean Austria. Um, no, right first time: Australia. Nepotism, inefficiency, whiff of corruption: we can’t have that in Australia. That’s our business. Let’s get down there and bang a few heads together.

They should not be allowed to get away with it. Let’s go back over FIFA’s, shall we say, disciplinary record. There isn’t much discipline in it.

For eight years, 2008-16, Vitaly Mutko was Russia’s minister for sport, also Vladimir Putin’s right-hand man. Russia won the rights to and hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, lavishing reportedly $60billion on them. Then they “won” the rights to host the World Cup. When FIFA’s ethics committee, an independent body, tried to investigate, Russia made only select documents available. Case closed.

Mutko was a pig in faeces. Football is his true love. Not only was he now the czar of sport, he suddenly was chairman of the Russian football union, too, and chairman of the World Cup organising committee. He and Vlad, the old one-two. Do you really think it was an accident that the US didn’t qualify?

Last year, though, it all started to turn to faeces. Mutko was by now Deputy Prime Minister. But two WADA reports into massive state-sponsored doping led to a partial ban on Russian athletes at the Rio Olympics. In one instance, an email chain directly implicated Mutko. Overall, it was his responsibility anyway. Now, after reviewing the WADA reports, the IOC has weighed in, banning Russia from next February’s Pyeongchang Winter Games, and Mutko forever, from everything.

Hitherto, FIFA and the IOC were ranked equal No. 1 in the sport of marathon blind-eye turning. You will have seen it: it finishes with a wink and a nudge. Now FIFA stands alone at No.1. Twice, it has thwarted moves by independent committees to remove Mutko from any role with FIFA. President Gianni Infantino said it would damage the prospects of a successful World Cup in Russia. When the World Cup draw was made in Moscow last week, there was Mutko, sitting right alongside Infantino.

This week, when the IOC moved against Russia and Mutko, it took FIFA less than hour to release a statement to say it would have no implications for them or the World Cup. They would not follow suit, and Russia was going to put on just the most wonderful World Cup. It nearly makes you wish to have Sepp Blatter back. Actually, though under a six-year ban, Blatter will be at the World Cup – as a guest of Putin.

The WADA report identified 30 dirty sports, on Mutko’s watch as minister. No one is even trying to claim that football sat loftily and purely apart from the system, on Mutko’s watch as chairman and all-round bigwig.

But when it comes to their approach to probity, FIFA goes in studs-first. It makes the Butcher from Bilbao look like a ball girl. And so off we will traipse to Russia, to put on a show to dazzle the world, but also to say: nothing to see here. Mutko is saying it right now. It will be circuses and caviar all round.

It wouldn’t take much to move the World Cup. It doesn’t need specialised venues, as the Olympics do. The infrastructure exists, in dozens of places. Of course, some innocents would be hurt, but that sort of collateral is already well established as a reasonable principle in this war on doping until it is won. A “clean” Russian team could take part, but not in Russia.

Don’t hold your breath. There’s sporting integrity, lying bloodied and wincing on the ground, leg bent back at 90 degrees, and there’s Russia, wearing that aghast look of feigned innocence and waggling a finger, and there’s the referee, the FIFA emblem on his pocket, cards still tucked securely inside it, smiling thinly as he turns slowly away, and there, in the official enclosure, is Vitaly Mutko, winking. It’s going to be just wonderful.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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