Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
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The Rick and Sepp show
FIFA is probably the most pompous, self important and
self-aggrandizing organisation in the world. UEFA is
about the only competition it has in the
self-importance stakes, but even they would baulk at
the idea of a two hour draw-cum-cultural spectacular,
presented to the world on a cold Saturday morning.
Draws have to be made, but why do they have to take so
long, and have a cast of thousands?
It is not as if this was the first time FIFA had
decided to present the draw in this way. On the
contrary, as far back as 1982 in Spain this type of
thing was being forced on our TV screens. The
highlights that year were many - how about one of the
revolving ball dispensers breaking, or the much
highlighted need to keep the South American teams
apart falling apart when someone picked out the
Scottish and Belgian balls too early? There was a
'better' moment though. FIFA (quite rightly) makes
much on these occasions of its valuable links with
UNICEF and other charities by having local children at
the draw. In Spain, orphans were on hand to help the
'celebrities' perform their arduous tasks. How
touching it was then to see Hermann Neuburger, the
West German representative, shouting at the child
unlucky enough to be near him, and showing the caring,
sharing side of football executives off to the whole
Things got little better this year. The draw lasted
barely 25 minutes, yet the show was filled out with
nearly two hours of 'cultural' break after 'cultural'
break, and some of the most inane dialogue ever heard.
We started off with the Ode to Joy, anthem of the
European Union, and utterly out of place in East Asia.
At least all the Europeans would hear something
familiar while they were eating breakfast.
Next we met Christina and Rick. Had Christina not
been wearing Korean national dress, we would have had
no idea that they were representatives of Asia, so
comfortably West Coast USA were their accents. Rick
must have been hired for his good looks; it couldn't
have been for his personality or presentation skills.
He had two facial expressions - a half smile/sneer
that appeared every few minutes (accompanied by a tiny
clap) or utter bemusement. From time to time his
voice came booming out across whatever was happening
on stage, or he stole Christina's lines with some
panache. Upstaging Mr Joseph S. Blatter at one of
these events takes some doing, but Rick did it with
We were introduced to the Secretary-General of the
Female Suspender Appreciation Society (as Joseph S. is
better known) quite early. We were promised
celebrities. We got Sepp and his World Cup All Stars,
(sorry the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002 TM,
sponsored by McDonalds, Adidas, Coca Cola, Trevor's
Barbeque Beans Inc., etc - to give it its full and
proper name - All Stars) or six mayors and football
Executives. Christina demanded applause, and even had
to remind Sepp to stand up to milk the adulation. Sat
next to him, Lennart Johansson was already asleep.
We next saw Sepp after some more 'culture' when he
came on to give a speech. FIFA had obviously been
employing a design guru - Sepp was wearing an in-ear
microphone just like Jennifer Lopez! Now just when it
looked as if he was about to freestyle all over the
stage, he pulled twenty bent cards out of his pocket
and started to ramble. After reminding us that we
were in Asia, and that the World Cup was a football
tournament, he stopped. Rick saw his chance, and
started linking the next 'culture break'. Sepp span
round and shot him the icy glare that only a
middle-aged Swiss businessman can and continued the
Five minutes later the World Cup itself was brought on
the stage and the sycophantic Executives accompanying
it (remember, Zidane may have won it on the field, but
it really belongs to twenty old men in Zurich)
lavished Sepp with praise. Bizarrely, all the
Executives were wearing in-ear microphones, and there
was not an autocue to be seen on the stage - they all
had bent cards that they mumbled into without looking
at the camera for more than 15 seconds at a time. The
sycophancy continued when the head of the Korean FA
told Sepp that his speech was 'very good'. Sepp
Finally, after almost one and a quarter hours we got
to the draw. A new name was introduced to the
increasingly bewildered public next: Michel
Zen-Ruffinen. Sepp is our usual host at these events,
and he performs with the authority of a very weak bank
manager. Zen-Ruffinen took no rubbish from anyone,
and even brought some humour to the show. Only eight
years ago Robin Williams had ridiculed Sepp (calling
him Mr Bladder, and mocking the white gloves he had
been instructed to wear), but had anyone messed with
Michel, he would have probably hit them.
Still, Rick and Christina had to interfere. The usual
bunch of Executives and has-beens were brought out to
complete the draw. I am sure that the female referee,
actress and mountaineer must be very famous in Korea
and Japan, but why were they here? Next, on came
Johan Croooff and Pay-Lay, as Rick decided they were
to be called. Pele was banned from the 1994 and 1998
draws, as Joao Havelange 'punished his wayward son'
for daring to criticise the corrupt Brazilian FA.
However, now Havelange had gone and Pele had been
corrupted by his spell in Brazilian politics and as
spokesman for MasterCard, the second greatest player
of all time was back. Rick lied to us next; he
claimed that Pay-Lay had been voted the best player of
the Twentieth Century in the FIFA poll two years ago.
As everyone should know that honour went to Diego
Armando Maradona by a huge margin, and so scared was
FIFA that the un avowedly left-wing friend of Fidel
Castro and genius would give the wrong image to Coca
Cola or McDonalds, that they invented a new award for
Zen-Ruffinen managed to conduct the draw with wit and
almost brought some suspense to proceedings. FIFA are
obsessed with making everything as complicated as is
possible. Why seed the nations so tightly when they
are supposed to be the best 32 teams on the planet?
If Brazil are to win their 'Penta ' they will need to
beat France, England, Argentina or Italy anyway, so
why not have a blind draw and let them meet in the
Then just when sanity appeared to be winning through,
Rick and Christina came back to haunt us. Presumably
because someone had to wake up Lennart Johansson, or
Sepp had to go breakdancing or something, we had to
have a break between the first and second parts of the
draw and Anastasia was going to sing the Official FIFA
World Cup Korea/Japan 2002 TM theme song! First
though, Christina interviewed Rick! He likes to
dance! He likes football! He thinks Anastasia is
sexy! He is even less interesting when talking about
himself than when mumbling links! Thankfully,
Zen-Ruffinen was soon back and he brought Michel
Platini with him.
Platini is desperate to be the next FIFA President,
and lurks around Sepp and the Executives at every
opportunity. Rumours persist that UEFA are determined
to stop him, even though Lennart Johansson has already
decided that Sepp (and Platini) can have another four
years in charge. At the draw though, Platini played
the role of soothsayer, predicting Nigeria would join
Argentina, England and Sweden in Group F rather too
accurately. FIFA go to great lengths to suggest that
the draw is fair and honest, but would you trust Sepp
and the Executives?
Then it was all over. Zen-Ruffinen promised
interviews with 'experts' to follow (probably Rick and
the mountaineer) but the BBC mercifully pulled the
plug on the coverage, and left Rick demanding the
audience show some respect to the organisers. Seven
months to go, and already it seems to be all too much.
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