The moment criminal proceedings against Sepp Blatter began last month, he would have braced himself for a dishonorable exit. Had the old man been delusional about his invincibility, he would have suffered a stroke at hearing the impossible!
The 79-year-old Swiss football administrator, who ruled football for 17 long and eventful years, has been, reportedly, provisionally suspended by the ethics committee for 90 days for indulging in financial misappropriation. A final decision could be announced on Thursday by Hans Joachim Eckhert, the head of FIFA’s ethics committee.
The Swiss is alleged to have signed a contract that was unfavourable to FIFA, and making a disloyal payment of 1.35 million Pounds to UEFA President, Michel Platini. The contract possibly refers to a 2005 TV rights deal between FIFA and Jack Warner, the former president of Concacaf, the governing body of football in North and Central America and the Caribbean. Swiss investigation is looking into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as well, in Russia and Qatar.
They have denied any wrongdoing, but going by the manner in which the investigation is unraveling, and the anti-Blatter sentiment in the power corridors of FIFA, he could well be talking to a hand. A majority of stakeholders don’t believe his version. Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Visa and Budweiser, few of the many sponsors, want Blatter out.
Blatter’s term ends in February and he had recently said that he is going nowhere till his term expires… He has already shown righteousness by stepping down as FIFA president even after being elected for the fifth consecutive time because he didn’t want to be perceived as influencing the investigation that rocked the footballing world… he is not going to be bullied again! But it may not be up to him anymore.
Whether the grand old man of football administration is being made a scapegoat, or he did dirty his hands in underhand dealings, only time will tell, but his contribution to football is stuff of the legend…
Like his presidential predecessor Havelange, Blatter sought to increase the influence of African and Asian countries in world football through the expansion of participating teams in various FIFA tournaments.
Over 70% of FIFA’s profits go back into football via its 209 member associations for all. In the past three years FIFA has invested an estimated £8m in India for artificial pitches, academies and development programmes, playing a significant role in developing football in a country which suffers from chronically poor funding.
Few remember that England’s finest football moment, the 1966 World Cup, was actually boycotted by African nations because they did not have a direct qualifying spot. Under Blatter’s presidency Africa had its first World Cup (South Africa, 2010), as did Asia (Japan and South Korea, 2002). The number of World Cup places for teams from the two continents has increased from two each to five for Africa and four for Asia. Football officials from nations beyond Europe are now an integral part of FIFA decision-making progress.
Blatter is not a saint, but he may not be exactly what he is being made out to be.