Grant Wahl To Take On Sepp Blatter For The FIFA Presidency

Grant Wahl announced today in a Sports Illustrated article that he's planning (seriously!) on challenging Sepp Blatter for the FIFA Presidency, throwing his name into the hat for the June 1st elections. On the face of it, this is an appealing idea - Sepp Blatter's regime is widely regarded as corrupt beyond belief, and there's a strong suspicion around the globe that FIFA in general needs a shakeup. I can only imagine that this is why Mr. Wahl is receiving such strong support today. On the SI poll, readers of the article voted overwhelmingly that they'd rather see Wahl in office rather than Blatter or alternate candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam; an extraordinary 96% of responders voting for the crown prince of soccer journalism and just 2% each for Blatter and Bin Hammam, who Grant (perhaps accurately) dismisses as just another FIFA insider.

That's a pretty strong endorsement from the voting public.

It's also rather bizarre one, and subscribes to the odd philosophy that it's perfectly acceptable to pick the wrong man for the job if the other choice is worse. Wahl is making a point here that fans around the world should rise up and combat the FIFA establishment, but in running for the presidency on a totally anti-Blatter platform he's turning what could be a positive election into a negative one. 'The other guy is awful' should never be an acceptable reason to vote someone into office. Yes yes, you say, all true, but Wahl has made a series of campaign promises, has he not? Indeed he has. Let's take a look at some of them.

On referees:

I'll make sure the World Cup has the best whistle-­blowers -- with no limits per country -- and require them to meet with pool reporters after every game to explain controversial calls.

I can totally see how meeting with reporters after the game will help improve refereeing decisions. It will be absolutely riveting conversation and will completely redefine refereeing.

Journalist: Why was there no handball called on Alessandro Nesta in the first minute?

Referee: Neither myself nor my assistant on that side of the pitch saw an offence. Having seen it on video we recognise that a mistake was made and a penalty should have been given.

Journalist 2: So why wasn't the penalty given?

Referee: ...

Journalist 3: Nesta committed a handball in the penalty box in the first minute. Can you explain your decision not to award Tottenham a penalty?

Boy, that'll be totally useful. The best part of this is the assumption that journalists are bearers of all that is truth and righteousness in the world, which is pretty clearly false. Good work on letting that professional arrogance show there, Mr. Wahl. You'll fit right in at FIFA.

On bookings:

Spain's Andrés Iniesta got the same punishment for celebrating the game-winning goal in the World Cup final that Dutch thug Nigel de Jong received for karate kicking an opponent in the chest.

It's really ridiculous how FIFA thinks that De-Jong-on-Xabi-Alonso style assaults are only worthy of a booking. This should be changed immediately. Wait a second. I seem to have found a provision in the rules that says that 'serious foul play' and 'violent conduct' are both offences that merit red cards. How about that? But don't worry, if you'd just talked to Howard Webb after the game everything would have been ok!

On FIFA regulations:

I'll clean up FIFA the only way possible: by releasing all of its internal documents, WikiLeaks-style, and commissioning an independent investigation using the guidelines of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

and

And I'll push for term limits to prevent any FIFA president (including myself) from serving more than two four-year terms in office.

I too think the United States Department of Justice and the precedent set by George Washington should be mechanisms by which we govern an international sporting federation! The rest of the planet will be absolutely thrilled to incorporate these measures into the rebranded 'FISA'. It'll be awesome.

On a more serious note, how about instead of pandering to external pressure by releasing internal documents from previous administrations, how about Wahl's hypothetical FIFA just... fix the problems? I assume Mr. Wahl can tell the difference between good practice and bad practice without any help from the baying public. Actually, given the next bit, maybe he can't:

I'll name a woman as general secretary, FIFA's most powerful appointed position.

Yeah, a female general secretary would indeed redress the ridiculous imbalance of male-female power in FIFA. Wahl should be lauded for recognising the problem. Perhaps that acclaim should be tempered somewhat by Wahl's suggestion that the job should be awarded not on merit but by gender, which is exactly what he's accusing FIFA of doing in the first place. This is going to sound crazy, but perhaps jobs should go to the people most capable of doing them. Is that crazy?

Wahl's pretty confident he'd win if it was put up to a vote by the fans, which seems to give him the belief that he'd actually be good at his job. Nothing he's said in his manifesto (I do admit that I'm slightly partial to his willingness to explore goal line tech so long as he never ever implements the execrable video replay idea) should give anyone the impression that this would actually be true, and it's not like his body of journalistic work covers him in glory, either.

And besides, if we go down the 'hey I'd beat Blatter in a fan election' route we end up with David Beckham as president. That's a precedent I'd rather avoid.

Find the right person for the job, FIFA. It's definitely not Sepp Blatter, but based on the evidence at hand, it sure isn't Grant Wahl either.

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