Friday, July 03, 2015

Better Call Sepp

Here’s a tip to politicians on both sides of the Greek debt debacle: it’s not too late to get out of the way and bring in a highly trained professional to head home a deal. Fortunately, there’s a solution for Greece and Europe – one that represents the kind of shocking tactic that should please Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and also offers the kind of buttoned-down efficiency that should appeal to Greece’s troika of adversaries—Germany, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission.

Here’s what should happen—and fast: the ancient and ailing country that was the birthplace of the polis should merge with FIFA, the world soccer federation, and bring in Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s disgraced caretaker president, as Greece’s interim unity Prime Minister.

Blatter is the only man in the world who offers the correct combination of tactical nous and Socratic inscrutability that could inch Greece and Germany past the goalpost of reconciliation.

First, Blatter’s got an undeniable Midas touch in deal-making. His ability to ease through the first-ever World Cup in Africa and to deftly get his board to agree to the controversial notion that Russia and Qatar would host the next two World Cups, shows he knows how to broker international feuds. And consider his technical ability off the ball: the recent FIFA election, which he won despite the fact that it was held two days after Swiss authorities swept into a five-star hotel and arrested his underlings, showed that he is a diabolical force, able to keep a fractious coalition of teammates together even as they were all threatened with criminal red cards. More than anyone else in the world, Blatter clearly has the skill to nutmeg German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde as he gets the deal done.

His final attacking move – abruptly resigning two days after having been reelected – was pure class. And his most recent defensive substitution – deciding not to attend the Women’s World Cup final in Canada – showed that the wizened wizard of world football has not lost his touch despite being a lame duck: he could potentially be arrested and subject to extraordinary rendition if he left the comfortable touchline of the Swiss border.

There’s also a simple financial reason why Blatter would be the right choice: FIFA currently has an estimated $1.52 billion in the bank. That’s a crossbar's width from the €1.6 billion Greece owed the IMF and defaulted on at the start of this month. FIFA, clearly, could make the payment. Think how great this would be for all the parties. In one move, Greece would avert a financial meltdown, Europe would save its prized single currency system, and FIFA would regain the trust of the world. If he could engineer this, Blatter could become the only person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize and Economics award in the same year.

A merged Greece and FIFA would also benefit from of Blatter’s Swiss upbringing. This provides a two-fold advantage. First, no one could accuse a man steeped in the culture of a country famed for its neutrality of playing favorites. And second, Blatter, like most Swiss, is multi-lingual, which means he could gossip with Merkel in her native German and chat with Lagarde in flawless French, while, as a FIFA man, he could speak with Tsipras in the language all other Europeans secretly think all Greeks speak: the mother tongue of payoffs and corruption.

While Blatter’s ascendance would be a temporary come-down for Tsipras and Varoufakis, it would represent the crowning achievement of their favored game-theory, uncertainty-principle economics -- so they would end up behind-the-scenes philosophical winners.

Sepp Blatter was the overlord of the world’s game who was reviled by the world’s people. In the modern era, economics is a bigger game even than football. By merging FIFA with Greece, Blatter has the opportunity to put his footprint on global capitalism and to bask in the adulation of the world.

Message to Tsipras: better call Sepp. He’s the perfect Mr. Fixit to stave off the Grexit.

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