Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Review of "Foul!" By Andrew Jennings

Just so you poor readers don’t have to read every football book going Football This Weekend (FTW) will be reviewing all football related literature that it can get its grubby mitts on. And of course where else would we start than with a book that talks very little about actual football? Andrew Jennings’ “Foul!” is an exploration of the dark side of FIFA. “Foul!” is not a book for those who want to read about the game itself. It’s about the finance and money side. It analyses how breath-taking levels of corruption infest the organisation. That FIFA is bent comes as no surprise to anyone but Jennings work systematically deconstructs the scams that have been running since Havelange became FIFA president. You’ll find far more about the Antiguan under 23’s side than Brazil or Italy in this one. But even so, in the football world, it is still a frankly staggering book. At times you feel queasy. Jennings batters you with facts and crimes.

The bunch of crooks and thieves named and shamed includes Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner and Joao Havelange as well as dozens of others who make up the top levels of FIFA. Jennings show how they have repeatedly committed fraud, vote rigging and bribery since 1974. To quote “Filthy Glasses” blogger Alex Di Mascio “In more civilised countries these people would be strung up from lampposts.”

Honestly, this isn’t an easy read. Firstly there’s a barrage of acronyms and names to deal with. The main culprits are easy enough to remember but keeping track of who is embezzling what from where is quite difficult. There are time-lines, lists of names with descriptions and appendixes at the back of the book which help somewhat. But really that isn’t the point of this book in any case.

Jennings manages to maintain (for the most part) a fairly level tone. He reports his side of the story without much in the way of moral outrage. The tub-thumping is left to the reader. And that is what should be taken away from “Foul!” Reading the book should leave a bubbling pit of anger. Exactly who did what is hard to remember but its impossible not to get caught up in the wave of sheer disgust that Jennings discovers.

The biggest single complaint of the average fan today is the amount of money which is infecting the game. No wonder when the people running the game have their snouts so deep in the trough. If FIFA ever get taken to court and the light is let into the Zurich HQ the only phrase needed will be “show trial”. Blatter and his cronies should be removed from office and forced to pay 1919-style reparations for the damage they have done.

Not a book for the casual football fan, but for the diehards a must read. As a final thought I’ll chime in on the note Jennings ends his work with. Where’s the money Sepp? Why not open up the books to external investigation? What are you hiding Sepp?

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