Poor Sepp Blatter. No, really, pity the Fifa president who arrived at his luxury five-star hotel in Marrakesh at the start of the week looking forward to an end-of-year jolly only to be confronted with yet another huge crisis after Michael Garcia, the man tasked with cleaning up football's governing body, turned his back on the organisation.
Fifa had been primed to pat itself on the back for having staged one of the most exciting World Cups in years, and there would even be time to gloat over the fact it had somehow come to the conclusion that allegations of corruption during the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process were unfounded.
But Garcia, who actually conducted the corruption investigation, sees things rather differently. He appealed against Fifa's interpretation of his 430-page report only to have his concerns brushed off earlier this week.
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With Garcia out of the way, Fifa no doubt imagined that the fuss would be finished and he would slink off back to the USA, allowing them to enjoy the best of Moroccan hospitality while lording it over the football world.
But for once Fifa has been badly wrong-footed. Garcia has gone all right, but only after first resigning from its ethics committee in protest over the way his report has been manipulated to suit Fifa's own ends. In the words of Sky Sports the former US attorney "dropped his bombshell" on Wednesday afternoon to maximize Fifa's embarrassment ahead of today's two-day executive committee meeting.
In his resignation statement, a clearly bitter Garcia explained that for two years he felt he "was making real progress in advancing ethics enforcement at Fifa", before adding: "In recent months, that changed."
Garcia then turned his fire on Hans-Joachim Eckert, the Fifa judge who wrote an "erroneous and incomplete" summary of his findings. In a withering attacking, he raged: "No principled approach could justify the Eckert Decision's edits, omissions, and additions." He concluded by declaring that the German judge "made me lose confidence in the independence of the Adjudicatory Chamber [and] it is the lack of leadership on these issues within Fifa that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end."
Blatter tried to put on a brave face, saying he was "surprised" by Garcia's decision. He added: "The work of the ethics committee will nonetheless continue and will be a central part of the discussions at the ExCo meeting in the next two days."
But Sunil Gulati, the president of US Soccer, said the resignation was a "backward step" for Fifa, while Michel Platini, president of Uefa, called it "a new failure for Fifa". The Frenchman, who has become one of Blatter's fiercest critics in recent months, articulated the thoughts of many when he said: "Fifa's ethics committee was created to increase the transparency of the organisation — that's what we wanted — but in the end it has just caused more confusion."
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