Eccentric Villar lays down gauntlet to government

In the wake of Fifa letting it be known (or at least not denying) that Spain could be thrown out of the World Cup (in a kind of footballing excommunication), the Spanish FA's suspended president, Ángel María Villar, has resurfaced quicker than a diver's fart. After months in hiding, he yesterday gave a long and energetic press conference to a media pack that he's always eyed with suspicion and kept at arm's length. He offered his take - which we have, as is our duty, reproduced in this newspaper at a length proportionate to the curiosity that his recent adventures (short imprisonment, long silence) have generated - on what is supposedly at stake: Spain's World Cup to-be-or-not-to-be. In Italy, by the way, they're following the issue with great interest.

Having listened to his deposición (I use this Spanish word for 'declarations', which also translates as 'defecation', for a reason), I talked it all over with a number of knowledgeable individuals. Most saw it as the spleen-venting of an eccentric man. However, I wasn't short on prudent observers reminding me that this is a guy who knows how Fifa works as well as anyone, and that putting a proposed FA election re-run to Spain's Council of State may have been a fatal error. Fifa guards football's independence with extreme jealousy; its protection of the game's autonomy in every corner of the world is something it makes no little show of. It takes great pains to shield itself from the threat of football ending up in the hands of a ruler's cronies in dictatorial states, or other such scenarios.

That's not the case in Spain, clearly. Villar was arrested on specific charges in a country with a rights-based regime. But by seeking the consultation of the Council of State over a repeat of the last elections he won, the National Sports Council has caused Fifa's ears to prick up. Spain isn't just any other country, and others could follow its example, thinks Fifa; and, with his well-known talent for political manoeuvring, Villar aims to escape from his miserable situation through this opening. A fine way for him to repay the minister, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, and the secretary of state, José Ramón Lete, for mapping out an honourable exit for him. They offered him that, but he doesn't want it. He'd rather tear down the pillars of the temple, bringing death to himself and all the Philistines...