Sepp Blatter. The name of our dear leader conjures up all sorts of emotion, doesn't it? Corruption, age, stagnation, and brown envelopes under the table. It all comes right to mind.
The great man himself, head of FIFA (our impossibly corrupt governing body) took time out from the important business of ignoring modern-day-slavery in Qatar, the scourge of homophobia and racism in stadiums in Eastern Europe, and cracking down on rogue advertising on Nicklas Bendtner's underpants, to weigh in on the ballon d'or debate.
As always, the two greatest players on earth are on the 23-man list: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Blatter decided to hint at which he prefers while talking to the Oxford Union this week.
One can imagine the scene - the students breathlessly leaning forward to find out which Sepp admires more and how he might defend his choice. Is he an admirer of Cristiano Ronaldo's amazing all-around game? His aerial ability? His incredible sprints? His out-of-this-world goal-scoring-ratio? Or does he prefer Messi's finesse, close-body control and dribbling?
The answer, it turns out, is that he prefers Messi - sort of. Blatter ultimately claimed to have no sporting preference. But the following statement...
"Leo's a good lad. Every father or mother would like to have at home. He's a good man, very fast and he's not exuberant. He's a kind man, he's a really good boy...The other [referring to Cristiano, who he didn't name], is a commander on the field of play...One spends more at the hairdresser's than the other, but I can't say who is better. I like them both, but I prefer Messi..."
...indicates otherwise. We would like to take this moment to note that Blatter almost certainly cuts his own hair - what's left of it, anyway.
Marca reports that this complimentary and mature statement from football's elder statesman involved the president pretending to march around military-style (when he noted Ronaldo was like a commander) to make it clear, if it wasn't already, that he was making fun of the player.
One hopes Blatter's blood pressure didn't spike too excessively upon his exertions.
Predictably, Real Madrid have taken exception to his comments and to this faintest of hints of institutional bias. Carlo Ancelotti: "Blatter showed a lack of respect...Cristiano trained well today as always. He works hard and he always shows respect." Marca reports that a letter complaining about Blatter's conduct and demanding an apology has been sent to FIFA by Real Madrid.
It will be noted the our coach was far too polite in his daily press-conference to make any jokes at the expense of Blatter's head of hair - or his lack thereof. This writer, however, has no such inhibition. Blatter is a fool, and has long been a fool. He is an embarrassment to the institution he runs, informing LGBTQ fans to "just stop being homosexual" during the Qatar World Cup (to be held in 2022) if they want to avoid arrest in one of the world's most homophobic regimes. He also appears to have failed to notice in advance it could be too hot to play there anyway. He's on record telling women footballers to wear "more revealing outfits" if they want anything near the same level of publicity their male colleagues get. He tells players to "shake hands" after racist incidents and simply ignore them. He dilly-dallied over support for Kevin Prince Boateng's brave stand against crowd-racism.
This man is an anachronism, dated, entirely of a piece with the institution he runs and apparently incapable of coming up with a genuine witticism to amuse the Oxford Union.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world's greatest players. Admired all over the world for his charitable work and his amazing talent - and yes, also for the personality that simply beams off the screen when one looks at this most stylish of players - in every sense. Handsome, tanned, his hair gelled to perfection - Cristiano Ronaldo is not only rich and talented, he is bloody good-looking - whether kicking a ball in majestic style or supporting one of any number of charities he takes an interest in.
Mr Blatter, the joke's on you.
*Writer's Edit - Cristiano Ronaldo responds on his official Facebook page
This video shows clearly the respect and consideration that FIFA has for me, for my club and my country. Much is explained now. I wish Mr. Blatter health and a long life, with the certainty that he will continue to witness, as he deserves, the successes of his favourite teams and players.