Why Sepp Blatter wants you to dislike him
FIFA president Sepp Blatter poured forth today with another classic Blatterism during the annual FIFA Congress held in São Paulo just ahead of the World Cup.
Amid questions surrounding the Qatar 2022 World Cup and Mohamed Bin Hammam’s alleged $5 million bribery junket to get out the vote, Sepp was content to come off as unhinged a mere 24 hours before kick off:
“We shall wonder if one day our game is played on another planet? Why not? Then we will have not only a World Cup we will have inter-planetary competitions. Why not?”
Most democratically elected national presidents would have tried to appear contrite in the face of scandal. Blatter preferred instead to narrate a 1950s era documentary on Our Future World, adding to a pile of mangled attempts at goodwill which include classics like: racism is curable by handshake! Women footballers should wear tighter clothes to get bigger audiences! Homosexuals should refrain from sexual activity while in Qatar!
This unscripted buffoonery has a purpose, however. The gassed up Swiss missionary rules the sport not with an iron fist but with a deliberate, privileged aloofness meant to exasperate his foes and deflect attention away from the small and big-time graft in the executive committee.
Remember this next time you draft your angry FIFA tweet: Sepp wants to be disliked. Not hated, as that might spur real action in the cause of his removal as president, whether by election or forced resignation. No, disliked. So long as Blatter is the focal point for anger, the symbol of global disgust with FIFA over corruption allegations, few will question the fact of FIFA’s existence. And that keeps his organization safe for future generations of bureaucrats.
Some otherwise excellent journalists have been suckered in by Blatter on this score. At least one today sided with UEFA’s public comments condemning Sepp’s desire to run again for president, and named Platini as their leader in the fight to wrest FIFA away from African and South American influence. Which would be fine if Platini himself was not implicated in the Qatar vote, an imbroglio which may explain his reticence to run against Blatter for the FIFA presidency.
If you’re tired and confused by the trail of graft, influence peddling, quid pro quos, TV rights kickbacks, vote buying, reform committees both living and dead, you’re left with two choices.
You can say, “Enough!”, and begin the long, uncertain process of questioning FIFA’s role in football, why it is so resistant to reform, and if, across all possible worlds, an organization like FIFA even needs to exist for a sport played and watched mostly for fun, or at the very least whether it needs to exist in its present, Vatican-like form.
Or, you can look at Blatter, scrunch up your nose, and wish for a non-existent candidate to come down from the heavens to replace him, a candidate who won’t end up like Havelange, Teixeira, Leoz, Warner, Blazer, or any of the other operators who’ve come and gone in the last few decades, and convince yourself that’s all it will take to finally ‘fix’ FIFA.
Blatter, very cunningly, wants you to do the second. And he’s happy to play the clown to help you along.