By Keith Miller
At 5.00pm this evening, Mark Aspden – President of NZ Football – released a press statement saying that his organisation had changed their mind. Sepp Blatter is no longer their preferred option as the head of the international game.
NZ Football is now backing Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein in the FIFA Presidential vote in Zurich overnight, and for that, congratulations must go to them.
In the statement, Aspden said “the executive committee believes that real change can only be implemented with a new president in place, and accordingly, we have opted to support the election of Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein.”
There’d been some talk that Blatter would still get their vote. In fact, the organisation had virtually confirmed as much as recently as a couple of days ago. But recent events have required a rethink, and the Jordanian prince is the benefactor.
The other option was to abstain. The problem with abstention is that it can be perceived as wanting to opt for the incumbent, but not quite having the gumption to do so in a public arena.
So what’s in it for New Zealand? Well, this country has seen three FIFA age group tournaments in less than 20 years. For a country of this size, that’s a very generous allocation. But in aligning itself with the head of the world’s most corrupt organisation, questions could potentially be asked from other quarters. How exactly did we manage to secure that allotment? Were we happy to turn a blind eye to some shonky dealings to secure these deals? Or perhaps even partake in them?
There is nothing to even remotely suggest that this is the case. But perception can often be reality.
On the other hand, is it possible that NZ Football is now throwing their weight behind Al-Hussein because he has given an undertaking to review the Oceania World Cup qualification process so that they play an Asian contender rather than a South American candidate? It would help Jordan too.
Again, unlikely, but who would know?
Or maybe it is simply a case that after years of Blatter dangling the imaginary carrot by way of direct entry from Oceania (which won’t, and probably shouldn’t, ever happen) NZ Football has seen the light and seen Blatter for what he is – a megalomaniac, an arrogant fool and a fraud.
Maybe the whispers were already out. Australia ditched Blatter pretty damn quick and NZ followed suit – maybe these two are the tip of the iceberg, and there are plenty more organisations ready to turf out the old codger. Here’s hoping that’s the case.
But ultimately NZ Football has made the right choice. It’s only a matter of time before Blatter is confined to the same historical footnotes as Juan Antonio Samaranch, and no organisation with any moral pulse is advised to be sleeping in the same bed. Blatter is toast, and anyone with half a brain knows it. And, perhaps voting for the future of the game rather than parochial interests is the way to go.
Congratulations once again NZ Football. You deserve to sleep well tonight.