Love him or hate him, you have to admire the way Sepp Blatter has expertly navigated the stormy waters of his FIFA re-election like a triumphant admiral who has neatly dodged the pirates trying to sink him.
Equally, credit where credit is due and the ice cool Swiss politican has wasted no time in setting about reforming FIFA. The 75-year-old started his fourth term as President after announcing a raft of measures designed to give the world’s governing body greater transparency and accountability.
A secret ballot saw Blatter re-elected with 186 votes and 17 abstentions as he stood unopposed as the only candidate, following Mohamed Bin Hammam’s withdrawal on Sunday – hours before he was provisionally banned over allegations that he was involved in Qatar paying bribes to secure the 2022 World Cup.
Earlier Blatter announced a new system of choosing World Cup hosts with all 208 Fifa nations voting instead of the 24-man executive committee. He told the Congress: ”I thank you for your trust and confidence from the bottom of my heart and together we will have four more years – provided the Lord gives me the life, the energy and the strength to continue on our path.”
His victory will taste even sweeter because the Football Association’s fruitless attempt to block the vote ended in heavy defeat and vengeful recriminations. It left England looking even more isolated than ever in the corridors of power of world football. FA chairman David Bernstein said his organisation’s move had been worthwhile and insisted they had not suffered for sticking their head above the parapet. But it is hard to agree. Even Wales and Northern Ireland voted against England and the fall-out saw several powerful figures in football line up to attack the FA.
The leaders of associations from Haiti, DR Congo, Benin, Fiji and Cyprus all spoke to criticise the FA’s move, and the most forceful attack came from FIFA’s senior vice-president Julio Grondona of Argentina who branded England a bunch of “pirates” fueled by ” journalism which is more busy lying than telling the truth.”
Meanwhile, centre stage the all-conquering Blatter said he would learn from the ”public anger” and would lead FIFA out of their current predicament: ”We have been hit and I personally have been slapped. We have made mistakes and we will learn from this. I can say to a certain extent that this is a good warning, not just to look into our problems and I am willing to face the public anger in order to serve football.”
While England’s football team can only dream of one day re-living the glories of 1966, off the pitch the English FA are even less effective. Embarrassed with total rejection in the vote to stage the 2018 World Cup, this was another day when our influence on the world game was once again exposed as being as low as it can get.
England humiliated by 2018 World Cup vote for Russia