Thursday, 13 July 2017

CHUCK BLAZER:THE GUARDIAN OBITUARY

My obituary of Chuck Blazer, the US soccer supremo whose testimony pulled back the curtain on the high level of corruption in FIFA, is online at the Guardian. You can link to it here; it should be in the paper paper soon. Blazer was an interesting case study, and I was lucky in the sense that I knew enough about the situation, and knew people with far more knowledge of it, to be to see both sides of the equation. It was important to note the impact Blazer had on the growth of the game in America, particularly in terms of the success of the national teams and the added exposure he got for them. The US still suffers from minnow status in the big world of football: they can go into the World Cup ranked a tier below Mexico even when they have beaten the Mexicans and won their group. But as I never tire of pointing out to British soccer moonies, the men's national team has had a success rate in the World Cup very much comparable to England's, the difference being no one in America really cares.

I also was able to speak, or at least write, with experience of FIFA. I had been doing business with them in the days when Sepp Blatter was the General Secretary and Joao Havelange was the President, and Blatter's reputation was as an 'honest broker' whom you could trust to see a deal through. Times change. Otherwise, writing it was easy, in the sense that Blazer was a larger-than-life character in any sense; I smell the makings of a TV movie, with John Goodman in the starring role. The hardest part was cutting out stories that were entertaining but didn't suit the obit. The macaw, however, made the cut.

Otherwise it is pretty much as I wrote it, with a couple of I think telling omissions.The first came with the mention of Prince William appearing in Chuck's blog. What I had actually written at that point was:  

alongside those (pictures) of Blazer with British royalty and football stars. 'Royalty treated him like royalty,' an anonymous colleague told the New York Daily News, 'because they wanted to host the World Cup and were slavering for the money that could be made buying and selling the beautiful game'.  

This was a reference to the failed British bid for the World Cup, which crashed amidst a 'fury,' as the tabloids would have it, of accusations of bribery. Which turned out to be true, but probably didn't actually take the event away from Britain anyway. But the ideal royals could be slavering for money was apparently beyond the pale.
The second was at the end, in the mention of his survivors. There I wrote:


Blazer is survived by his son Jason, a physio therapist who served as CONCACAF's head of medicine, and his daughter Marci, a lawyer who served on FIFA's legal committee.

I thought that the mention of their positions within world football was a telling point to make, for obvious nepotistic reasons. It wasn't the only case in FIFA history, that's for sure, including Sepp's nephew the travel agent. The paper also had some doubt about his cause of death. When he was hospitalized in 2015, it was reported as colon cancer. His lawyer's statement about his death said he died of rectal cancer. I didn't think it was a cause for omission.

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