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