Fifaâ€™s decision not to punish Germany for wearing rainbow colours on their boots and cupping mouths in protest was a sign that footballâ€™s governing body is fearful of reprisals from Europeâ€™s leading nations.
Self-preservation was always instinct No.1 at Fifaâ€™s Swiss retreat. But Gianni Infantinoâ€™s organisation has already fallen off the high-wire of obsequiousness to Qatar and assurances that it would defend the liberal values World Cups are meant to represent.
Two days before Germany were allowed their fightback, England surrendered to a Fifa threat to impose â€śsporting sanctionsâ€ť on Harry Kane if he emerged against Iran wearing a â€śOne Loveâ€ť anti-discrimination armband. If Fifaâ€™s aim was to ingratiate themselves with Qatarâ€™s ruling clan, they alienated much of world football â€“ especially powerful European countries protective of their dignity.
Infantinoâ€™s bizarre attempt to claim parity with the worldâ€™s oppressed through his experience of being â€śbulliedâ€ť at school for having ginger hair had already dismayed the major countries. Intimidating their captains with the threat of instant yellow cards (and worse) has produced a moment of jeopardy for Qatarâ€™s friends in Switzerland.
Fifaâ€™s power base is ownership of the World Cup. Without that itâ€™s just a secretariat. Already the game thinks it has abused its privileges by sending the tournament to Qatar and bisecting the club calendar in winter. From there it wouldnâ€™t take too much grumbling for the big clubs and leagues to decide theyâ€™ve had enough. Noel Mooney, chief executive of the Wales FA, called the U-turn on rainbow symbols â€śpretty cheap and pretty lowâ€ť and said his members were â€śabsolutely furious.â€ť
After reporters came away from a press conference with the idea that Denmark might cancel their Fifa membership, denials were issued by Danish officials. But it might have been the first crack. Infantino and Qatar promised to observe basic freedoms of expression. The big nations wonâ€™t stand idly by while Fifa shame them in the eyes of their constituents.
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