Soccer | THE BALD TRUTH

2002 on hold as JAWOC ponders making a decision

by Alastair Himmer

My Korean girlfriend has come to the conclusion that the Japanese couldn’t organize a bun fight in a bakery, let alone a World Cup.

Stupid rules enforced by stupid people, who can’t — or simply refuse to — give you a reason for exactly WHY you are not allowed to drink your cappuccino without cinnamon in it, AND they make you wait 10 times longer in Japan.

“Yes, dear,” I mutter sympathetically. Ordinarily, I would mumble something about the pot calling the kettle a cheeky so-and-so, but I don’t want the missus to thump me again.

From a safe distance behind the sofa, however, I might suggest that, where the World Cup was concerned, it is co-host South Korea that is behind schedule.

Did we not waltz straight through the main gates into the World Cup stadium in Pusan last December and have a picnic on the pitch without bumping into anyone vaguely resembling a security guard?

On World Cup safety, at least, surely South Korea needs to sort its own problems out first?

I mean, the Korean police might be well hard, but the plod in Japan have nicked all the “Spiderman” guns. That hardly seems fair.

Reports that the South Koreans, for their part, are working on a revolutionary “Kimchi Cannon” to disperse rioting fans — or at least cover them in smelly sludge — are total rubbish (but don’t tell Nikkan Sports or it will be headline news tomorrow).

But hang on a tick. It was South Korea that announced last December that the country would establish designated no-fly zones over World Cup venues following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

It may have been a knee-jerk reaction, but at least they took some sort of action in a decisive manner.

For the quick thinkers on Japan’s World Cup organizing committee (JAWOC), Sept. 11 came at least a year too late. Japan might introduce no-fly zones over World Cup stadiums by June 2011. (Which is about the time “Lord of the Rings” will hit Japanese cinemas and I will get an explanation as to why I must have cinnamon sprinkled on my frothy coffee.)

JAWOC admitted recently, however, that “there is still a mountain of work to do, both for us and (South Korean organizers) KOWOC,” which, roughly translated, means, “Sod off and let us get on with it!”

The South Koreans are attempting to do just that and marked D-100 last month with musicals, fireworks, parades and the country’s first nuclear test on an island in the South Pacific (see tomorrow’s Nikkan Sports for details on this breaking news).

In Japan, a bunch of kids got together in Shizuoka for a spot of skateboarding. Talk about World Cup fever!

Look, let’s just forget all this keeping up with the Moons or Endos for a moment, shall we? In the current spirit of detente that “The Bald Truth” is fostering in World Cup year, I would like to call on all sides to come together, for the love of the game.

Just as I am endeavoring to strengthen Anglo-Korean relations, let us all embrace the idea of a united World Cup.

You, too, Mr. Blatter, when you have finished stuffing that brown envelope into the coat pocket of that African chap.

What was that? “FIFA Boss in Bribery Shocker!” Well, I never.

Ah, fun and games at FIFA again, and just in time for the presidential elections in May.

Sepp Blatter — or “Mr. Blotter” as he was repeatedly called by his interpreter in Tokyo last week — has responded to bribery allegations relating to his election as FIFA president by saying they are part of a “destabilization and defamation campaign” against him.

Well he would, wouldn’t he?

Blatter beat European soccer chief Lennart Johansson by 111 votes to 80 to become president in 1998.

But Britain’s Daily Mail claimed last week that 18 African delegates accepted money to change their votes from Johansson to Blatter on the night before the election “after Arab backers knocked on hotel doors in the dead of night.” Naughty, naughty.

Johansson told me that he “(didn’t) want to sound like a bad loser four years after the event” but later called for an investigation.

“Eventually the truth will hunt you down,” he said. “If these allegations are true, I think Mr. Blatter will have to make a judgment on his future.”

The timing of the Daily Mail’s “revelations” might be fishy, but you can’t deny it is a ripping yarn.

Blatter is standing for re-election at the FIFA congress in Seoul in May, and is the only candidate to throw his hat into the ring so far, although Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, the president of the African Football Confederation and a critic of Blatter, is expected to oppose him.

Blatter, who was never into the idea of co-hosting anyway, has suddenly got more to worry about than the World Cup. We wish him luck. It looks like he will need it.

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Oh, by the way, the J. League kicked off at the weekend. Which is big news if your name happens to be Shunsuke Nakamura.

Here is a player who should be desperately worried about his World Cup chances.

Yet the Yokohama midfielder is splashed all over 15-meter billboards in Tokyo and Osaka wearing the new Japan World Cup shirt. This is more irrefutable evidence that Japan has gone completely Mork and Mindy.

It has to be either:

A) wishful thinking by adidas (and Nakamura) and is bound to end in tears; or

B) Japan coach Philippe Troussier has already decided that Nakamura is in his final squad of 23.

In which case, somebody shoot me.