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Why football fans have to reclaim the sport after Blatter

Sepp Blatter. Sepp Bloody Blatter.

A 79-year-old bloke who regularly says things like: “He should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination,” when referring to whether someone should shake someone’s hand after they’ve been racially abused during a match; “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts,” when asked about female footie; and, who could forget, “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities,” when asked what homosexual men should do when visiting Qatar, a country where homosexuality is against the law.

All grossly offensive stuff, made even more offensive by the fact this 79-year-old man is, or was, President of FIFA, the governing body of a sport that is played by millions all over the globe.

At the time of writing Blatter’s done the decent thing and stood down as President (belatedly). Which is just as well because he’s currently being investigated by the FBI and has been lumped in with the corruption scandals that went to the heart of the organisation and came to light last week.

Corruption at the heart of The Beautiful Game’s governing body was, if you read the papers and listened to pundits, one of the worst kept secrets since Father Christmas was outed as a fictional character (sorry if that’s the first time you’ve read that). Now it’s all out in the open, it’s hard to believe… but at the same time isn’t.

But what do all these shenanigans mean to us, the people who play football in parks at the weekend, believing they can still pull off a Cruyff turn like they could in the school playground, go down the pub to watch Sky Sports every Sunday, spend hundreds on season tickets, and who buy the shirts, kiss the badges and keep the whole sport alive? We’re already faced with growing ticket and merchandising costs, which makes professional football seem so distant and difficult to relate to these days, so what happens when members of the governing body who are supposed to be representing us get caught with their hands in the till, rigging votes all over the shop like it’s gone out of fashion?

It’s hard not to feel betrayed. This whole FIFA thing has a whiff of the expenses scandal of a few years back (once again involving people who were supposed to be serving us. Is it just me or is there a theme developing here?), and a feeling of “how can we ever trust them again?” Our relationship with the suits and administrators in Geneva will take a long time to heal, but let’s face it: on a very basic level we don’t need suits and administrators to express how much we love football.

In many ways, it’s down to us – the fans – to rebuild the sport’s reputation because it’s not the sport itself that has been tarnished, it’s those who run it who will be scrutinised for ever more. No, if we want football to survive this shitstorm, the fans have to do what they’ve always done – play it, talk about it, shout about it, sing about it and dream about it.

It’s time for us to reclaim the beautiful game. Again.

Photo by See Ming Lee. Creative license here

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