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Whose rules are these, Mr Blatter?

Byline: Michael Calvin

"WINNING is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying.

"Fair play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame.

"Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly."

That, believe it or not, is the first of 10 golden rules which make up FIFA's own Fair Play Code.

It is a monument to hypocrisy, an epitaph for the "sporting, moral and ethical principles" which supposedly shape the global game. There are no survivors from the perfect storm of human weakness, corporate cynicism and moral outrage which broke over the Stade de France.

Thierry Henry has been exposed as manipulative and insincere.

He cheated, set the rhythm for the choreography of convenient contrition.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the office clerk who would be king, made himself scarce. The biggest blip of his week was Russia's play-off elimination.

No one in football, from David Beckham downwards, blamed Henry. It was far easier to portray him as a plaything of fate.

Arsene Wenger suggested real villains fix matches, bribe referees and take banned drugs.

But Henry's apology carried the fingerprints of a ghostwriter anxious to salvage the shreds of his client's reputation.

How Richard Dunne tolerated the France captain's stage-managed sorrow after the final whistle is beyond me.

Henry does little by accident.

He knew the cameras were on him.

Look at me, folks. I care. Cut me, and I will bleed.

He was, to use his own damning phrase, "exploiting the exploitable".

I'm ashamed to admit that, in Dunne's position, I would have given him a right-hander.

When I've confessed that base instinct to players and managers over the last few days, the majority have used the same phrase: "It's part of the game."

That, chaps, is the problem. Henry's platitudes about wanting a replay were worthless because FIFA had already decreed the referee's decision final.

They knew their audience. Footballers are conditioned to walk away from trainwrecks with their eyes set firmly on the horizon.

That suits Blatter, who seriously considers himself a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Why should we doubt him? FIFA stage games between children from warring nations. They expect players to deliver sub-Olympian speeches, promising to show "fairness and solidarity in everything we do".

They hand out Fair Play diplomas, and have earmarked September 23 as annual Fair Play Day.

It's all a sham.

TONY CASCARINO: Page 75

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THIERRY-BLE: Handyman Henry
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 22, 2009
Words:436
Previous Article:ROBBIE: SEEDS WERE SOWN BY FIFA; THE FRENCH FARCE: DREAM MAY BE OVER BUT THE WORLD CUP ROW RAGES ON.
Next Article:'Henry won't suffer'.


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