So I am back working in Tokyo this week, for obvious reasons
; and because my team in Japan work incredibly hard for me, I was sitting at my PC near them at 9.20pm pretending to also work hard when I received an instant message from a colleague in New York - a Brooklynite with a mild interest in soccer and a strong interest in winding me up. This is what it said:
You probably know what these are – the latest FIFA rankings. I knew this instantly because every time Scotland lose an international match, or the USA win one, my ginger New York pal Doug takes the effort to dig these rankings out to have a dig at me. (Nice dig, Doug.)
I am a huge believer in serendipity. Not the café on East 59th Street which serves frozen hot chocolate (how do they do that?); but the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate (especially while looking for something entirely unrelated, says Wikipedia, but I’ll ignore that bit as it doesn’t suit my purpose). I believe in serendipity because usually it’s approaching midnight on a Wednesday night and I’ve no idea what to write for you, dear reader (based on polling data, I am using the singular); then serendipity intervenes, I write my column, and I get off to bed, where I toss and turn for an hour or two listening to Mrs Williamson snoring, until finally I drop off to sleep.
Anyway. A few weeks back, I mentioned in a jokey fashion that if Scotland made the playoff draw, FIFA would fix it so the playoffs would be seeded – “so the wee teams play the big teams” as I put it (Kenny MacAskill’s Secret Masterplan Revealed, Sept 3, 2009
Well, what do we learn this week, but Sepp Blatter has decided that the playoffs will indeed be seeded. Ireland are outraged, and so should they be; as Shay Given says, ”The rules should be laid out clearly before any ball is kicked.” [He later goes on to say “To change it at this stage is beyond belief” which is perhaps demonstrating a child-like naivete when it comes to football politics, unlike his world-weary team-mate Kevin Kilbane: “It is a joke, let's be honest, because they always seem to bend the rules.”]
I couldn’t agree more.
We have the world’s premier football tournament, probably the world’s biggest sporting event, governed by some fat chancer making the rules up as he goes along. What’s stopping FIFA saying up front that the playoffs will be seeded? Nothing. They’re either incompetent or corrupt. I think a bit of both, but mainly the latter. They want the big teams – sorry, the big TV audiences – to get to the finals to make their sponsors happy, so Blatter and Warner and all the rest of those parasite leeching scumbags can maintain their first-class lifestyle in the midst of the worst global economic crisis in living memory.
So how will they decide seedings? Well, looks like they’ll use the comically meaningless FIFA rankings. So, France (potential TV audience: 65m) might finish second and be in a playoff, but no danger of them facing Italy (60m) should the Irish do the thing FIFA don’t want. Maybe they’d prefer them to face plucky wee Northern Ireland (1.8m) to avoid losing 63.2m potential viewers.
I fired back to my antagonist:
I am forthwith patenting this as the “Williamson-modified FIFA Bollocks Ranking Scale”. It’s a population-adjusted FIFA ranking; I took the number of points in the original FIFA table, and divided that by the population (in millions) of each country, then ranked countries high-to-low.
As you can see: small countries punch well above their weight, and big countries can frankly go and lick my balls. [Unexpected bonus for my ongoing transcontinental dialogue: USA comes bottom.]
I’m not sure this is really going to help Ireland in their predicament, because, well, even if they were the top seeds they’d end up playing the likes of France or Italy who would now be at the bottom. But it makes me feel better having done this, and you should feel free to use it in arguments with supporters from big countries who mistake quantity for quality. You’ll have to pay me royalties, but it’ll be worth it.
Answer to the question in the title: “As many as FIFA World Cup ™ Sponsors can shove down his throat.”