Just how grimy and unsavory is the world of FIFA? Given the recent goings-on regarding world football’s governing body, many of us may think we know, but according to England national team Gary Lineker, we have no idea.
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England’s leading all-time international goalscorer shed a few rays of light this week on the not-so-pretty underbelly of FIFA, what he calls the “murky world” of football politics.
Lineker, a regular contributor to NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier League, was speaking at the launch of BT Sport’s (UK) European football coverage, and had the following to say on his involvement in England’s lobbying efforts to host the 2018 World Cup, which was ultimately awarded to Russia:
“I couldn’t bear it. I wasn’t really involved in the bid but at the last minute they asked me to come over – I think because they heard I played golf with [UEFA president] Michel Platini. We were in the lobby the night before the vote and we were asked to be really nice and creepy to all these people. It wasn’t me. I don’t like pretending to crawl up people’s backsides. And we were the only ones doing it.
“I remember I was sat with David Beckham and turned to him at one point and said, ‘Have you noticed we’re the only nation that’s doing this? Do you get the feeling that it might already be done?’ So I had that sense at the end of it all of needing a shower.”
In short, England sent Gary Lineker and David Beckham — the United States (2022 World Cup bidders) sent Bill Clinton and Morgan Freeman, to be fair — while Russia and Qatar (2022 hosting rights winners) sent relative nobodies upon the successful completion of multi-million dollar wire transfers to FIFA delegates (allegedly).
As more and more details continue to trickle out, it becomes less and less a shock to anyone anywhere that Russia and Qatar will host the next two tournaments.