What does it take to bring about change? Hard facts have never worked, and rational arguments fall upon clotted ears. The despotic, the incompetent and the corrupt will cling on to their positions by using lies, smears and obfuscation. It seems that only when a prominent male soccer functionary, for example, oversteps all boundaries in front of a global TV audience that there is sufficient collective outrage to push him and his enablers towards accountability.
Even then, the parasite — who, using the same example, has under the guise of euphoric patriotism forced himself sexually on a female soccer player during a medal awards ceremony — will attempt to cling on to his position and his colossal salary. And, as proven at the meeting of the Spanish federation (RFEF) last week, there will still be enough co-operative underlings prepared to cheer and applaud him in the mistaken belief that they're backing a virile steed, not a hobbled nag on its last walk to the knacker's yard.
The former Spanish international Veró Boquete, who revolted against her federation in 2015 and hasn't played for her country since, this week asked a very good question in The Guardian: "What if this hadn’t happened, if [RFEF President] Luis [Rubiales] hadn’t kissed Jennifer [Hermoso] [during the World Cup medals ceremony]? We would be talking about how Rubiales is the best football federation president in the world, that Jorge Vilda is the best manager in Europe and the world and everything would continue as normal. We have hit a threshold and are at war to get change."
Boquete pointed out that it's not just in Spain where the women's game had been banned and then held back for decades, and that it's not just the RFEF that's dominated by men who share the reactionary, condescending views of FIFA President Gianni Infantino that women just need to "push the doors" at soccer's world governing body in order to find their way in. In the light of Infantino's typically wrong-headed speech (the man couldn't read a room with six-foot high graffiti smeared on its walls), England's veteran defender Lucy Bronze snubbed his attempt to shake her hand at the post-final medals ceremony, and you can only wish that more players would follow her example. What was Infantino even doing on that stage? Why did he and Rubiales - mere mediocre, tie-wearing figureheads inveigling their way into a moment of someone else's glory - need to be anywhere near the ceremony?
Still, their behavior has unwittingly sparked Boquete's declared war. Rubiales' tantrum, wailing to his RFEF colleagues that he would not resign, and his spoiled-brat name-calling of all those who were demanding his head, was too much even for FIFA, which finally suspended him for 90 days pending one of its famous investigations. You can imagine the meeting where this was decided. "Boys, we have to stop him - we can't go around being this blatantly obnoxious. Future functionaries must know that vile conduct has to be out of public reach, or we're all doomed to the jobs and salaries we really deserve, shredding files in Accounts." Rubiales has become an embarrassment by exposing the kind of man who makes it to the top in soccer admin. His colleagues are now offering him a tenth-floor window to jump through before they're all dragged down with him.
We can only hope that they are. Soccer administration has historically been the domain of unelected, autocratic, self-serving males with neither the skill, the knowledge nor the imagination to lead the game effectively forward. The progress in women's soccer, for example, has come from the self-sourced struggle to be recognized, supported and rewarded in tiny dribs and drabs from the likes of Infantino and Rubiales. And then, at the moment of peak achievement, they jump on to the stage with their inane grins, hairless heads, uncontrollable egos and slobbering tongues, as though none of this would have been possible without them.
Except that the crotch-grabbing clown Rubiales went too far, putting it all out there in the worst possible way, which was a way that not even his entitled cronies could ignore. On our home sofa, we all cried, "Urgh! What the hell is he doing?" That cry of repulsion echoed around the world, exposing the chauvinistic norm and sparking the long overdue call for radical change in the way soccer is run, and how it will look in the future.
All who love soccer need to join the revolution, now.