Nothing rotten in the state of Fifa
Out of the frying pan and into the fire – from the auditorium and the verdict, to the walk of shame. A parade of English loyalty and sporting aristocracy before the pitiless TV lenses.
Prince William gave a quick “the guys are pretty down”, then a statement to camera. And that was that.
Gary Lineker – dressed for a funeral in black tie, would you believe – looked genuinely tired and upset as he spoke to me. He said he was mystified, there was nothing he could point to. On allegations of corruption revealed by The Sunday Times and the BBC, he would not be drawn.
Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer, characteristically blunt, telling me he was bitter. His language and demeanour screaming “we was robbed by the Russians”, though of course bitter was the only word he used. It spoke volumes.
But the man to get to, his one-time Arsenal supremo David Dein, international exec for the bid. He’s the man we have seen late into the night, eyeball to eyeball, with the 22-delegate brotherhood of Fifa.
In a fascinating interview, he keeps on telling me it would always be uphill. Uphill, he uses the word again and again. But why uphill, when the England bid and presentation always made it at or near the front on paper?
“I’m not getting drawn into that,” he told me again and again. As I questioned him about the 50-foot pink elephant in this large auditorium: the Fifa corruption allegations.
Of course they are not going there – merely mouthing gentlemanly words of congratulations to the Russians.
It is clear here tonight that falling at the first hurdle – before all other bids – has devastated the team. But to what extent they blame in private the exemplary – yes, and damaging – reporting from the Sunday Times and Panorama, we just don’t know.
On one side of me now, the Qataris – embracing and crying with joy. On the other, the cameras gather for the victorious Russians amid rumours that Vladimir Putin is flying to Zurich tonight.
There is the other joke here in Zurich, that Mr Putin simply said to Fifa: “Give us the cup or we turn off the gas and oil.”
Of course, this is a joke. Nothing so corrupt could ever happen in the world politics of sport, could it?