By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published November 2, 2015
Last week, in a wide-ranging interview with Russian News Agency TASS, outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter unclothed the underbelly of FIFA’s World Cup 2018 and 2022 selections, and the reasons, in his view, for the crisis that has embroiled FIFA ever since.
After fielding 30 questions and comments from Oleg Koshelev, Artem Kuznetsov and Maxim Filimonov of TASS, Blatter’s revelations confirmed my likening of FIFA to a Mafia organization in previous articles. The revelations also confirm the suffusive impact that the current suspensions, levelled at himself, Vice President Michael Platini and General Secretary Jerome Valcke, has on FIFA’s governance.
Blatter, in his own words, when asked if FIFA is currently in a crisis remarked, “Yes, in crisis, but not the organization as such but the leadership is in crisis. The football has never been so good as now. It’s really good football everywhere. FIFA is not in crisis. The government of FIFA is in crisis. It must be in crisis if you kill the same day the president, the secretary general and the vice president of the biggest confederation.”
Note the Mafia-esque parallels. He could have easily had said, ‘yes the leadership of the biggest Mafia cooperation in the world is in turmoil since they have whacked the boss, the underboss, and the consigliere, also known as, the ruling Administration of the Mafia Family.’
Furthermore, Blatter revealed how his underboss, Platini, undermined the alleged prepackaged plot to award simultaneously in 2010, the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to the political superpowers, Russia and the USA respectively. As we now know, fortunately for Russia, they won the bid for the 2018 World Cup, with England, Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium bids missing out. Unfortunately, the USA 2022 bid seemingly disintegrated in the final round of votes with Qatar’s oil or Platini’s political sway or interference. Qatar won the bid comfortably with Australia, Japan, and South Korea missing out in the earlier rounds.
Blatter unveiled, “everything was good until the moment when (former French President) Sarkozy came in a meeting with the crown prince of Qatar, who is now the ruler of Qatar (Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani). And at a lunch afterwards with Mr. Platini, he said it would be good to go to Qatar. And this has changed all pattern. There was an election by secret ballot. Four votes from Europe went away from the USA and so the result was fourteen to eight. If you put the four votes, it would have been twelve to ten (in favour of the USA).”
According to Blatter, “The FIFA World Cup or the FIFA president is a ball in the big political power game. If the USA was given the (2022) World Cup, we would only speak about the wonderful World Cup 2018 in Russia and we would not speak about any problems at FIFA.”
He is probably right. The snubbing of the English and the USA bids may have triggered or precipitated a wide scale microscope into the operations of FIFA. Unsurprisingly, lifetime banned former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner and many others share similar sentiments.
Warner and Blatter, including their lawyers, have rubbished the motives of these criminal investigations and Blatter have classified the US, and especially the English, as “bad losers”. However, according to Blatter, the true loser or victim in all this will be the saboteur, FIFA’s underboss or Vice President, Platini.
Blatter spared no words in describing their decayed relationship from friends to foes, and in his view, Platini’s cowardice to run against him for the FIFA Presidency.
Blatter disclosed that Platini proffered to work for FIFA after the 1998 World Cup and did so until in 2002 when Platini became a FIFA official. At the time, Blatter revealed that Platini’s asking salary was beyond FIFA’s financial capabilities so part of the payment was deferred until a later date. According to Blatter, Platini said “pay me later” which FIFA did in 2010 when Platini claimed FIFA owed him US$2 million.
Blatter claimed the payment was not a stratagem but his honouring of the verbal contract between himself and Platini in 1998. As he said, “It’s a principle I have in my life that if you owe money to somebody, then you pay it. Then we paid it. That’s all. And this money was not paid for any other reasons.”
Unfortunately, the FIFA Ethics Committee haven’t bought that story and have suspended Blatter and Platini for 90 days with the possibility of a further 45 day extension.
For years, many in FIFA theorized that Platini would be Blatter’s eventual successor, as Blatter, the father or boss prepares his son or underboss for succession. Blatter divulged that his relationship with Platini soured after Platini caught UEFA’s “anti-FIFA” virus, shortly after Platini became UEFA President and sidelined him, Blatter, at the 2008 European Championships. Blatter claims his office as FIFA president and the people he represents was disrespected. Now, he blames Platini for FIFA’s undoing with these investigations from the angered US and others.
Is Platini truly to be blamed? Maybe, we don’t know. However, if Platini’s campaign is derailed with the 45-day extension of his suspension, Platini’s underboss and UEFA’s General Secretary, Gianni Infantino, is among those positioned on the track in the race for FIFA’s Presidency. So, if Platini cannot be President, he may be the one who pulls the strings of the future FIFA President. Unfortunately, Blatter, Infantino’s own countryman, and many others think Infantino doesn’t stand a chance.
Nevertheless, much has been said and much more is left to be said. Will Platini respond? We await. All I say now is, the plot thickens.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” column in the Western Mirror (Published November 2, 2015)