What cost are we willing to pay for a World Cup?

Davidde Corran Roar Guru

By Davidde Corran, Davidde Corran is a Roar Guru

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    Australia's Harry Kewell (left) competes for the ball with Eljero Elia of the Netherlands during the Socceroos v Netherlands soccer match at the Sydney Football Stadium in Sydney, Oct. 10, 2009. The teams drew 0-0. AAP Image/Paul Miller

    Australia's Harry Kewell (left) competes for the ball with Eljero Elia of the Netherlands during the Socceroos v Netherlands soccer match at the Sydney Football Stadium in Sydney, Oct. 10, 2009. The teams drew 0-0. AAP Image/Paul Miller

    Agendas. Surely they’re the one thing a journalist shouldn’t have. Yet, so many do. It was a topic of conversation between a bunch of Australian and foreign journalists in Cairo recently.

    Sitting around a table at an Egyptian restaurant the day after the Young Socceroos had made their exit from the U20 World Cup, the point was made to me that so many of the old guard of football journalists in Australia have agendas because “you can’t be around for as long as they have and not pick up a few”.

    It’s an understandable reason, but to me, not a justifiable one. It may be idealism but I believe that as a journalist, once a reader feels you’ve compromised yourself, even fleetingly, they will forever think of you as such.

    That’s why it was a surprise to find that an article on Football Federation Australia’s new World Cup ‘strategist’ was running as the lead piece on The World Game, a site which I contribute to, on Saturday.

    On the surface it would seem reasonable to be excited by any case where “England’s loss (becomes) Australia’s gain” unless you know about Peter Hargitay, the man at the centre of all of this.

    I’ve been aware of the Hungarian for quite some time but he really splashed onto the Asian Football scene earlier this year during the Asian Football Confederation’s messy and controversial elections. Despite that, it was only last week that I met him and it was a meeting that was as intriguing as one might have expected.

    So who is Hargitay?

    Well you can read about him on this site and this piece but here are a couple key facts about him.

    In 1984 a chemical factory in Bhopal, India released 40 tonnes of the highly toxic chemical methyl isocyanate into the air.

    It caused the deaths of at least 3,000 people in the following hours and days. The figures of how many people eventually lost their lives due to this incident will never be known but at least another 15,000 people died from related illnesses.

    It was the worst industrial accident in human history.

    The company responsible for the disaster was Union Carbide and the spin-doctor they hired shortly afterwards was Peter Harigtay.

    Following his time with Union Carbide, Hargitay moved on to work with Marc Rich, a man who is famous for two things: being at the top of the US Justice Department’s Most Wanted International Fugitives list and breaking UN sanctions against the South African government that was enforcing a policy of apartheid.

    Towards the end of their campaign to host the 2010 World Cup, South Africa broke out Nelson Mandela as their trump card. Meanwhile we’ve got a man linked with those who put the former South African president in jail in the first place.

    So all this has had me thinking, what price are we willing to pay for the right to host a World Cup? And I’m not just talking about the $45 million of taxpayer’s money.

    It’s a question I’d like you to ask yourself. Are you happy to be represented on the global stage by a man who has worked for a negligent company that killed thousands?

    Are you comfortable with your money going to a man who as recently as three years ago had to move his offices from London to the legal safe haven of Cyprus (not Zurich as the article on The World Game purports – that is only where a branch is) to avoid paying the US$2 million dollars a court order found he was responsible of owing.

    These questions are important because with our World Cup bid it’s the path we are now heading down.

    The corridors of global sport politics are messy and few walk away from them with clean consciences and pure reputations.

    We’ve started our journey through these very corridors and at the least we must understand that the price we will pay wont just be in dollars and cents.

    I’m genuinely curious to know how you feel about it.

    The Socceroos' hopes of qualifying from the group stage at the World Cup are hanging by a thread after a 1-1 draw against Denmark. See how the match unfolded with our Australia vs Denmark match report, highlights and result.

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    The Crowd Says (74)

    • October 21st 2009 @ 4:05am
      albe said | October 21st 2009 @ 4:05am | ! Report

      there’s plenty of these so-called ‘masters of the universe’ strutting the world stage tbh. Not keen on any of them personally. Don’t think Harigtay is that far removed from the rest of em.
      Yes he’s an apologist for one of the worst industrial accidents in history. We can also say the same for people who continue to back western imperialism in the mid east, with its accompanying human ‘collateral damage’. The top echelons of the world are full of these cretins, aka soulless spin doctors. (There’s my 2c 😛 )

    • Roar Guru

      October 21st 2009 @ 4:52am
      Freud of Football said | October 21st 2009 @ 4:52am | ! Report

      I can’t say I’ve heard of Hargitay until now but its an interesting read Davidde.

      Firstly regarding the move of his business to Cyprus. How many celebrities and business people move for tax purposes?
      Considering some of the ridiculous tax rates some countries impose on the rich (and believe me I’m a long way off being in that top tax bracket) it’s understandable that they do move abroad but let’s look at “Aussie Guus”. He was embroiled in a tax scandal and prosecutors wanted him to receive 10 months in jail but we still love mentioning what a great job he did as manager of Aus even though he was found guilty of these charges. So what’s the difference between Hiddink and Hargitay?

      I can understand why people move for tax reasons but as for moving for the law. Well what about Roman Polanski? The man that gave us The Pianist, one of the most brilliant films of all time. He remained in exile in France to escape charges of sexual abuse in the USA but his career was allowed to flourish afterwards. If you’ve seen The Pianist you’ve supported an alleged Sex Offender, that’s how simplistic you are making this with Hargitay.

      I won’t compare “crimes” here as that is futile but Hargitay, as you put it Davidde come in as a “Spin Doctor” for this massive chemical mishap. He wasn’t responsible for it happening and it wasn’t his actions that caused it, he was employed to do damage control after the fact.

      Anyone who has ever heard lectures on the issue or worked in a related area will know how ruthless and ridiculous the business can be. A plane crashes and 200 people die, the first thing the airport and the airline does is worry about its image in the hope it doesn’t cut into it’s bottom line, they offer every assistance they can to those affected and publicise their good work as much as possible. Hargitay is just in a line of work that requires people to make other peoples stuff ups not look so bad, some people won’t like it.

      And what about this company that has killed thousands that employed him? There are armies that have unnecessarily killed thousands, Australian soldiers were employed in them but do we condemn them like this? What about tainted beef at burger joints, how many hundreds or thousands has that killed over the years? Or the children who get worked to the bone to make our shoes, many of whom die due to the neglect they are put through?

      The list of company scandals goes on and on and on, companies are negligent as they try to cut corners to make a profit, Hargitay, at least from what you’ve written was merely the “Spin Doctor” to use your term once again. He wasn’t culpable and if he is good at putting a spin on things, then why wouldn’t we want him on board? Let’s face it, Kevin Dudd isn’t going to get us a WC.

      It’s a tad ironic that you mention “agendas” and then word the article the way you did, as you noted; “once a reader feels you’ve compromised yourself, even fleetingly, they will forever think of you as such.” – Well Davidde, I can’t help but feel you’ve got it in for Hargitay, in your 715 words you didn’t manage to tell us one good or neutral thing about the man who is “representing” us, surely there must be some reason other than his work for Union Carbide that he has been employed to bring us the World Cup?

      • October 21st 2009 @ 8:29am
        Art Sapphire said | October 21st 2009 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        Just the response I expected from you Freud. You must be attracted to men without principles.
        You need to remember that this is a sporting website. Using decription like “pathetic soul” to decribe another posters is an admission of defeat. I suggest you hire Mr Hargitay, he might be able to come up with some spin for you 🙂

      • October 21st 2009 @ 7:17pm
        True Tah said | October 21st 2009 @ 7:17pm | ! Report


        you lost me when you tried defending wealthy people paying taxes, and justifying their moves to lower tax jurisdictions. If you’re in that situation where you are in the top tax bracket, then you are pretty well off.

        Whats next? Defending James Hardie’s move to Netherlands?

        • Roar Guru

          October 21st 2009 @ 7:25pm
          Freud of Football said | October 21st 2009 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

          Read on TT, you’ll see I have founded my claims.

    • October 21st 2009 @ 6:43am
      VInce said | October 21st 2009 @ 6:43am | ! Report

      Whilst we would all prefer the world to be a squeaky clean and 100% above board place, unfortunately reality says it is not and FIFA (as well as the IOC) are just as grubby as the Politicians, Used Car Salesmen, Real Estate Agents etc.
      This bloke may very well be extremely good at dealing in the murky underbelly that is international football politics and that by definition means he probably has a few skeletons (and knows where other peoples are buried) in the cupboard.
      There are lots of rumours and innuendo surrounding how Obama got to where he is (relate to when he was in Chicago) but no one seems to mind all that as the greater good is apparently served by having him in place.
      We could take a pointless moral position in saying that we will only deal with 100% shiny clean people for our WC Bidss but then we should demand that of our politicians as well as the world operates on quid pro quo and that is just life.

    • October 21st 2009 @ 7:19am
      The Answer said | October 21st 2009 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      Great article David, you are right to point out that most football journalists in Australia have their own agenda, in my own opinion most are just cheer leaders for Frank Lowy so it nice to get some critical analysis on the decisions at the top.

      We are right to question whether the employment of Haritgay is a correct one, especially on the taxpayers coin.

      I’d argue that any bid won with the likes of Haritgay on board is a tainted one, but it will no doubt be drowned out by the cheers if we win.

      However, if we get beat let’s hear no complaints from the likes of Vince above about it not being fair or it being a dodgy system as we’ve already sold our soul to the grubs at Fifa.

      Apologists like Vince always seem to pop up and claim its the real world, what a pity Saddam isn’t around to buy more wheat.

      As an aside, I’d recommend “FOUL!” By Andrew Jennings for anyone interested in Fifa dealings.

      Keep up the good work Davidde, I doubt we’ll read similar pieces elsewhere.

      • October 21st 2009 @ 8:41am
        VInce said | October 21st 2009 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        The Answer, I am a realist not an apologist.

        Living in an agricultural area as I do, I have seen first hand the damage ideology such as ‘let’s reduce our tariffs and everyone else will follow’ causes . The rest of the world said thank you very much and have continued to subsidise their exports into Australia destroying farming communities here- did you know if you take brazilian OJ concentrate and add 75% australian water it is deemed an Australian Product?

        We all know that the process of politics (FIFA, IOC, Canberra) is corrupt but being mindlessly idealistic about it won’t change the game now will it?

        • October 21st 2009 @ 7:04pm
          The Answer said | October 21st 2009 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

          Yeah the rural sector have never received a thing from the Australian government.

          Is it mindless idealistically not to have a crook on the payroll?

    • October 21st 2009 @ 8:44am
      Art Sapphire said | October 21st 2009 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      Excellent piece Davidde and thanks for the links. Just the sort of stuff we need to debate on this forum.
      On an ethical level it would be hard to even shake hands with the man.
      Personally speaking, there is no way I could even contemplate representing a company like Union Carbide after the disastrous legacy they left the people of Bhopal. Yet, for great financial reward, Hargitay accepted the job of denying natural justice to the poor victims of the disaster. People like these have no scruples. These are the people who would have worked on behalf of the Nazis if the rewards were there.

      To have this man helping our bid is indeed troubling, but its also an insight into the corruption infested, sleaze ridden way football is run. My love is for the game not for the adminstrators.

      • Roar Guru

        October 21st 2009 @ 3:16pm
        Freud of Football said | October 21st 2009 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

        Why would it, “On an ethical level it would be hard to even shake hands with the man”? As I said above, “If you’ve seen The Pianist you’ve supported an alleged Sex Offender”. So that leaves us in the dilemma,watch one of the greatest films of all time or ignore its existance because of some charges that are 30 years old which the victim wants dropped anyway: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/6237442/Roman-Polanskis-victim-is-mother-who-wants-charges-dropped.html

        Don’t forget, Hargitay came in to do a job. People don’t like getting parking tickets but it’s someones job, it doesnt mean they are evil for doing it.

        I’d suggest that Hargitay was handsomely rewarded for the Bhopal incident but that’s the kind of thing one can build a career off of, just like Aloisi and that penalty, it’s not just money, it’s reputation, one thing that goes well for you can open a lot of doors in life. Hargitay just happens to be in a line of work which is seen as unethical but what his actual crime was apart from spinning things for Union Carbide, well both Davidde and yourself have failed to mention this.

        “These are the people who would have worked on behalf of the Nazis if the rewards were there.” – Art, do you realise what the punishment was if you went against the Nazi’s? People didn’t exactly have moral dilemma’s under their reign, it was a case of kill or be killed, you were with the Nazi’s or you were wanted by the Nazi’s.

        Right up to the Stasi. I’ve heard figures that as many as 1 in 7 East Germans was an informant for them, countless people disappeared during the DDR’s existence. You weren’t given choices, these weren’t “fad’s”, these were regimes, dictatorships based on fear and intolerance. To claim people do bad things for money is only half right and if you want to use the Nazi’s as an example then please get your facts straight.

        “To have this man helping our bid is indeed troubling, but its also an insight into the corruption infested, sleaze ridden way football is run. My love is for the game not for the adminstrators.” – There I’ll agree with you. That’s how it is. At least Lowy isn’t naive enough to think otherwise and has made a move that may upset some people but if we get a WC, no-one will be complaining.

        • October 21st 2009 @ 4:06pm
          Art Sapphire said | October 21st 2009 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

          You don’t understand the point I was to make,Freud. There were people who voluntarily acted on behalf of the Nazis for financial reasons. These were people who facilitated business for them from outside Germany. They were under no duress to work for the Nazis, they quite gladly gave their services for their own gain. They operated in a moral vacuum.

          What I am implying is that Mr Hargitay is the kind of bloke who would have gladly done PR for the Nazis back in the day.

          I suggest you read some of the other stuff he has been up to from the link Davidde provided.


          I also want the WC to come to Australia but its interesting who we have chosen to get into bed with in order to enhance our prospects.

    • October 21st 2009 @ 9:03am
      GazGoldCoast said | October 21st 2009 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      Gotta assume Haritgay is a Lowy appointment, which says it all really. I mean, you wanna talk sleaze, just take a dig around Frank’s back yard…

      Look at the investigations into shady deals with senior Israeli politicians, look at the US Congressional investigations into tax evasion, look at his $50 million settlement with the ATO a while back and his more recent claims that his Aussie taxes are being sent to mysterious Israeli “charities” which he refuses to name, look at his vehement opposition to awarding the Sydney peace prize to a Palestinian woman, Hanan Ashwari, look at his friendship with US developer Larry Silverstein, with whom he did a very interesting real estate deal on the World Trade Center just a short time before September 11th, 2001.

      And yet, curiously, Frank Lowy is widely applauded as a great Aussie sporting hero, the man who “saved” football, yadda yadda. And it’s not just the football press that give him nothing but accolades, even the mainstream corporate media is incredibly reluctant to criticize him. Who wants an enemy like that, right?

      What’s the old saying: “Send a crook to catch a thief.”

      We football fans just want to enjoy our game, and if you start thinking about this stuff too much it can spoil your whole experience. So here I am on the Gold Coast trying not to think about Clive Palmer’s right-wing political agenda and his massive coal mines, which help spew crap into our atmosphere…

      They say money is the root of all evil. And there’s a lot of money in football these days. Probably way too much.

      • October 21st 2009 @ 4:06pm
        True Tah said | October 21st 2009 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        Whilst Frank is a businessman before anything else, I dont think its fair to taint his name by dragging up his dark side, although I will point out that futbol heads have a habit of looking at Frank Lowy through rose coloured glasses.

        On the whole a brave piece Davidde, it took some balls to put this together and well written.

        • Roar Guru

          October 21st 2009 @ 4:45pm
          Freud of Football said | October 21st 2009 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

          Why isn’t it fair to drag up Lowy’s dark side as you put it but it’s ok for Davidde to give us nothing but an insight into Hargitay’s?

          At least we know what Lowy has done for the game, Davidde has bought a relatively inconspicuous character working behind the scenes to our attention and has not managed to mention one positive or neutral thing about him, he has actually done some good work in the past which hasn’t yet been mentioned.

      • October 21st 2009 @ 4:07pm
        albe said | October 21st 2009 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

        spot on Gaz, though it doesn’t spoil it for me… i’ve always been conflicted about many of the people u mention above. Miles away from them in politics, but i tend to now accept football is as diverse as wider society. We can’t keep the game purely for those who just agree with us.
        I totally support what Lowy has done for the game even though i can’t stand his position on Palestine.

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