Timing Fail: FIFA President Sepp Blatter Labels England 'Bad Losers'

Just let this one go, Sepp. You want this story to die. And I say this as somebody that's on your side. In no way to do I think all the paranoid indignation is justified, but you're not winning any battles by calling England "bad losers" for their reaction to last week's news.

That's when it was announced that Russia and Qatar would hold the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, announcements that sparked a sea of scrutiny from England and the United States. Today in the Guardian, where the FIFA leader labels England "bad losers," Blatter has his say:

"To be honest, I was surprised by all the English complaining after the defeat. England, of all people, the motherland of fairplay ideas," Blatter told Swiss weekly magazine Weltwoche.

"Now some of them are showing themselves to be bad losers. You can't come afterwards and say so and so promised to vote for England. The results are known. The outcome came out clearly."

Blatter's referring to the contention that England was promised more than the two votes they got, a total that sent them crashing out of the process on the first of three ballots. In that regard, Blatter's are a surprising and welcome note of sanity. Just because one or more Executive Committee members might have lied to Prince William and David Beckham doesn't mean that process is corrupt. It just means the ExCo has little reverence for royalty, be it the political or footballing kind.

But just because Blatter might be right doesn't mean it's a good idea to bring this up. Right now, England and its media are the kid who had a bad Christmas. In a few months they'll forget they got Battleship instead of a bike (kids do still want bicycles, right?). But if you keep reminding them they didn't get their bike? Calling them babies for complaining about it? That's just emotional bullying. Sepp, you need to let this go.

Instead, the FIFA president piled on:

"I really sense in some reactions a bit of the arrogance of the western world of Christian background. Some simply can't bear it if others get a chance for a change.

"What can be wrong if we start football in regions where this sport demonstrates a potential which goes far beyond sport?" he said.

In the abstract, nothing (to answer his question). His "western world of Christian background" can complain all they want, but FIFA did what it said it was going to. Long ago, Blatter made it clear that his legacy as would be about taking the game to new places. And what happened last Thursday? FIFA delivered, the product of a populist platform that keeps Blatter in his presidency despite scorn from the England-language press.

Thursday's decisions taught us a lot about potential corruption, FIFA's vision of the footballing world, and the true standards by which World Cup bids are measured. That those standards were so different than what the England-language media portrayed is the subtext this flawed rhetorical uprising.

That is not to say good things can't come from these sour grapes. Blatter himself admitted that FIFA needs to improve its image:

Blatter rejected the corruption allegations and said he was being targeted by anti-Fifa journalists: "There is no systematic corruption in Fifa. That is nonsense. We are financially clean and clear."

But Blatter said Fifa could not act as if nothing had happened, adding he wanted to set up a taskforce to look into compliance issues, without giving details.

"We need to improve our image. We also need to clarify some things within Fifa."

Corruption watch dogs will hate to acknowledge it, but Blatter seems right. Corruption is certainly more prevalent than soccer fans would like - more prevalent than Blatter would like - but there is no evidence that it's systematic. That is an important distinction.

As this process has highlighted, FIFA is not a monolithic entity. Because Blatter has been a champion of emerging soccer cultures, some people that have been brought into the process have more to gain from taking a payday than, say, Chuck Blazer would. It's no coincidence that the Times of London's sting caught a Nigerian official, somebody who was trying to get money to build facilities in his home country. It's no coincidence that people are highlighting Qatar's donations to a mismanaged Argentine Football Association.

A more dispersed process means more, potentially vulnerable, points to pinch. If the process was still a vote of FIFA's entire membership, the block created by Europe's numbers might alleviate some of these problems. Then again, Europe is not without its own corruption, as the match-fixing illuminated by Declan Hill shows. Corruption in. Corruption out. Corruption back in.

The AFA money and the Nigeria bribe have little to do with each other, and while they illuminate the possibility of a culture of corruption, the incidences are far from conclusive. More readily, they exhibit the same problems inherent in any political process: Different people have different motivations, and some of those motivations are off kilter.

FIFA should spend the next eight years identifying the problems of 2010 and leveling the playing field for 2018, but that won't change the fact that the World Cup is going to neither England nor the United States. That won't change the fact that nobody can show it would have otherwise gone to those nations, where the process more transparent.

If Blatter is at all ambivalent about the virtues of a more open process, he should realize sour grapes are difficult to nurture once you've run out of excuses, but I'm getting off-tracked. Sepp: Keep your mouth shut on this one. You're not doing yourself any good. You're not doing FIFA any good. You're not doing England any good by picking at this wound. For a while, just go away.

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