The Fall of the House of Fifa

David Runciman writes:

As the world continues its Trumpian turn away from soft power towards the colder comforts of hard power, some moments now look like straws in the wind. In late November 2010 the English FA sent David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham to Fifa headquarters in Zurich to lobby on its behalf before the vote for the right to host the 2018 World Cup. Two old Etonians and an alumnus of Chingford County High School: the sight of these three men larking about in their identikit blazers was the very embodiment of English soft power. For years Britons travelling the globe had found that sticky situations in foreign lands could be remedied with the two magic words ‘David Beckham’, which invariably brought grins and handshakes. William, recently engaged to be married and still in possession of most of his hair, was another magic charm. Cameron, barely six months into his premiership, added ruddy-cheeked bonhomie to the party. Only if the FA had sent deputy PM Nick Clegg in his place could it have signalled more clearly that it believed hard political choices could be alleviated with some honeyed words and a shy smile.

(LRB 21 June 2018)

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