FIFA CongressWednesday, June 11, 2014
Blatter dances on as his European rivals seethe
SAO PAULO — On a tough day in his 16-year FIFA presidency, Sepp Blatter even found time to shimmy on stage with a glamorous Brazilian model.
Blatter’s shuffling steps with Fernanda Lima, FIFA’s favourite big-event host during yesterday’s gala opening of its annual congress, suggested he was care-free just 48 hours before the troubled 2014 World Cup kicks off.
Yet Blatter had seemingly been snubbed by Brazil state president Dilma Rousseff, who skipped the ceremony, and hours earlier was subjected to a ferocious attack on his record by European football leaders.
Senior UEFA officials lined up to openly denounce Blatter’s running of the scandal-hit governing body after urging him during a closed-door meeting not to stand for re-election in 2015.
“People link FIFA to corruption and bribery and all kinds of old boys’ networks,” said Michael van Praag of the Netherlands, revealing he had told Blatter “people tend not to take you very seriously anymore. FIFA has an executive president and that means you are responsible.”
Blatter’s behaviour on Monday finally caused European frustrations — long simmering at seeing UEFA President Michel Platini’s potential path to the FIFA throne blocked — to boil over.
On a tour of continental meetings, Blatter had fanned indignation among African and Asian delegates by suggesting recent European media reports alleging corruption linked to Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid was rooted in racism.
Blatter also promised hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonus payments to each country from FIFA’s US$4 billion-plus World Cup revenues.
The FIFA president intends to cash today with widespread support from the congress floor for his expected presidential candidacy.
Europe’s collective anger flared yesterday, perhaps fuelled by knowing that Blatter was already backed by five of the six confederations before arriving at UEFA’s five-star hotel in downtown Sao Paulo.
First, they reminded Blatter he promised them in March 2011 that his current four-year term would be his last.
“He said that he changed his mind and every human being is allowed to change his mind,” Van Praag said.
England’s delegation, led by Football Association President Greg Dyke, revived long-standing friction with Blatter. “I said to him, ‘I regard the comments you made about the allegations in the British media in which you described them as racist as totally unacceptable,”’ Dyke told reporters.
UEFA board member David Gill said Blatter should go in 2015.
“Personally, yes, I think we need to move on,” said the former Manchester United chief executive, comparing FIFA to the International Olympic Committee, which changed its president after the Salt Lake City bidding scandal.
Platini did not meet with reporters yesterday, though his secretary general, Gianni Infantino, denounced Blatter’s description of a “storm” around world football.