‘SO FRESH AND SO CLEAN’
Fiver readers of a certain age will be aware the hedonistic highlight of any ambassador’s reception is usually the arrival of an elderly gentleman dressed as a snooker referee bearing a painstakingly assembled pile of Ferrero Rocher on a platter. Today, however, the word from South America is that Fifa are about to crank things up a notch. While Diego Maradona’s appointment to an ambassadorial role with world football’s governing body does not automatically mean guests at their lavish soirees can expect to be offered mountains of a stimulant that is considerably less fattening than chocolate, the Argentinian’s one-time fondness for jazz salt suggests many will attend in a state of cautious optimism. They will be disappointed, naturally. We need look no further than Diego’s ban from football during the 1994 World Cup to see how intolerant of drug use Fifa’s blazers can be, while his new role with the organisation provides a heartwarming example of their fabled capacity for forgiveness and bridge-building. Unless you’ve spent so much time gorging from the Fifa trough that your name is actually Blazer.
But enough about Chuck the grass, a sad relic of Fifa’s sordid and soon-to-be forgotten past. “Now it’s official,” cheered Maradona on his Facebook page. “Finally I can fulfil one of the lifelong dreams; to work for a clean and transparent Fifa alongside people who really love football.” By clean and transparent Fifa, Maradona ostensibly means a Fifa reboot that hasn’t been caught doing anything too untoward since it got rid of his old mucker Sepp Blatter and appointed one-time Big Cup bingo caller Gianni Infantino in his place. Famous for his refusal to disclose his salary and with a fondness for private jets, chauffeured cars and lavish expenses, Blatter is currently serving a six-year period in exile from his former Fifa fiefdom and has been replaced by the former head of Uefa. As clean and transparent as the organisation he now heads, Infantino is – or at least was – also famous for his refusal to disclose his salary and a fondness for private jets, chauffeured cars and lavish expenses.
Maradona could never have clambered aboard the gravy train while Blatter was in charge of Fifa, not least because of his fairly accurate assessment that the organisation had become “a disgrace and a painful embarrassment” under a man he likened “to an old Mafia boss who has somehow managed to stay out of jail”. Indeed, it is probably this kind of diplomatic language and capacity to avoid causing offence that caught the eye of Fifa’s new boss, who played on the same team as the 1986 World Cup winner during a five-a-side at Fifa HQ last month.
“In recognition of his outstanding and unique contribution to football, Fifa is looking for the best way to collaborate with Diego Armando Maradona, ensuring he has a major role in Fifa’s activities to promote the game across the globe, through his involvement in relevant development projects and the Fifa Legends’ programme,” whooped a statement which suggests nobody at Fifa is quite sure how best to deal with their combustible and charismatic new employee. England’s footballers found themselves in a similar situation in Mexico back in 1986 and while Maradona came up smelling of roses, for Bobby Robson’s boys, it didn’t end at all well.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“In the past, we sometimes chartered a private jet, but we don’t do that now. On holidays we do still rent a fancy villa, but you get different categories of ‘fancy’. We are trying to get used to it. Sometimes it is difficult” – Johnny Heitinga on the struggles and sacrifices involved in trying to adjust to life as a retired footballer.
“Reading [yesterday’s] Fiver, it seems you started off on something (the take on Manchester United’s debt) but then gave up, because you couldn’t pull it off, so you rounded on Arsenal. I read on to see if you might have come good, but alas, you didn’t. Again, failure to deliver. I guess it was my fault for thinking you might have come good a second time after your riff on Billy Joel two days before. Anyway, it’s back to normal, then, with the usual …” – Nigel Assam.
“I truly hope that, in response to a post about Nixon’s comedy exploits (yesterday’s letter from Billy-Bob Chadklaxon Snr IV), at least one of your American readers sent this instead of today’s dribble” – Christopher Smith.
“I can understand why the likeable but not-at-all pseudonymous Billy-Bob Chadklaxon Snr IV doesn’t want their real name used in the letters column, given that the current US administration is keeping an extremely vigilant eye on the Fiver. Well, it makes as much sense as their other policies” – Charles Antaki.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Liverpool have banned Sun hacks from Anfield and Melwood over the newspaper’s coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.
Eddie Howe wants to get Union Jack Wilshere to scrawl his name all over a permanent Bournemouth contract when his loan deal from Arsenal ends. “His heart has been here from the day he walked in the door,” whooped the Cherries boss.
Sam Allardyce was humble as ever when describing how his 7am meeting with his Crystal Palace players went down. “We covered everything. It was nailed,” he roared, perhaps through a traffic cone.
The FA has been given a vote of no confidence by the few MPs who could actually be bothered to hang around parliament past 5pm to cast a vote.
Meanwhile, the FA says it will conduct almost 5,000 drug tests next season, double the number it carried out in the 2015-16 campaign, at a cost of almost £2m. Can’t you just feel those winds of change?
The first rule of Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal fight club is that you do not talk about Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal fight club. “When you are a competitor you fight,” honked Wenger, playing free and easy with his own rules. “You fight as far as you can and we are in a double fight. We are in a fight to be in the top four, but we also have to fight because we want to catch Chelsea. We have to refuse to give up.”
The World Anti‑Doping Agency has described the lack of drug testing in Spanish football during the past 11 months as “alarming” and “deeply disappointing”.
And Ronald Koeman wants Romelu Lukaku to autograph a bumper new Everton contract as soon as possible and would quite like the club to get a wriggle on. “I don’t believe [Mr 15%s],” mused Koeman. “I don’t know what is happening. I wouldn’t say anything now [to the board] but maybe after the weekend, yes.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Electric pace? Check. An eye for goal? Check. Scott Hogan’s path to the top mirrors Jamie Vardy’s route to the big time (apart from the not so nice stuff), writes Ed Aarons.
Leyton Orient are facing the full fury of a spiteful owner scorned, fumes Tom Davies.
N’Golo Kanté is ace but his exit through the Leicester back door is not the only reason for their demise, so says Paul Wilson.
Eddie Howe … ah, let’s start that again, Thomas Tuchel to succeed Arsène Wenger and more in today’s Mill.
Will Spurs be left exposed at Anfield? And will Tom Cleverley come up at trumps at Old Trafford? Here’s eight more things to relish this weekend.
Mauricio Pochettino’s been wooing everybody about his good old-fashioned teamwork at Spurs Lodge, says Amy Lawrence.
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