Thursday, June 17, 2010

'Eyes down, round and round - let's all sit and watch the money-go-round...'

IT seems a bit rich for billion-dollar-profit-making Fifa to entirely pass the buck on the World Cup stewards fiasco.
It’s purely an employer-employee issue, they and the South African organisers insist – even as emergency police roll in to control four strike-hit World Cup stadia, including the one holding England fans tonight.
Ah, but whose World Cup is this, anyway?
Fifa branding – and lawyer-pleasing trademark signs – are even more ubiquitous than complaints about Jabulanis or vuvuzelas.
And Fifa-approved sponsors – some helpfully, healthily schilling fast food or booze – run a cartel within miles-wide World Cup ‘zones’, excluding and even prosecuting traders with the audacity to be South African.
The heavy-handed treatment of the orange-skirted ‘Bavaria Beer’ girls has proved an even more embarrassing own goal than those Dutch lovelies were gifted by Denmark.
But less attention has been given the less-photogenic plight of thousands of stewards toiling thankless 12-hour shifts, promised meagre payments – and actually handed even less.
Uncomfortable stuff, especially for an event given acclaim – some of it deserved - for uniting a nation and showcasing a continent.
The image of riot police fighting stewards in a World Cup car park clashes with the sight of lavish bonuses being sprayed around in an upmarket Johannesburg hotel suite.
On the eve of the big kick-off, Sepp Blatter declared himself ‘a happy man’ and his gathering of Fifa delegates ‘a happy Congress’.
As well they might be, having just been told of unexpected extra windfalls worth £171,000 to each FA – and another £1.7million apiece for the continental confederations such as Uefa.
How much of that money they spend on the game’s grass roots remains to be seen – as does any effect on generous ‘Santa’ Blatter’s presidential re-election bid 12 months from now.
But the benefits – or otherwise – for hard-working South Africans keeping the World Cup up and running deserves at least a mention by the president – perhaps on his prolific new Twitter account.
Speaking of which, can we at least call Mr Blatter’s Twitter tweets ‘Bleats’?

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