Federation of International fraudulent associations?

Published : Jun 13, 2015 00:00 IST

Sepp Blatter may have secured another term as FIFA President, but he has a lot to think about.-PICS:GETTY IMAGES
Sepp Blatter may have secured another term as FIFA President, but he has a lot to think about.-PICS:GETTY IMAGES

Sepp Blatter may have secured another term as FIFA President, but he has a lot to think about.-PICS:GETTY IMAGES

Joseph Blatter is firmly in the saddle, but FIFA is going deeper into the mire. Where will this end, wonders Priyansh.

The script was predictable and still, not quite. Joseph Blatter, as everyone expected, was chosen as the president of FIFA for the fifth time. But not one person would have foreseen the dramatic events that took place a couple of days before the FIFA Congress in Zurich. Except perhaps the Swiss investigators who made the arrests and their Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) counterparts.

Boosted by popular numbers that have been carefully secured thanks to years of patronage and other gifts, Blatter termed the arrests of nine senior FIFA officials as a well-crafted exercise to malign him personally. According to him, the charges laid by the United States of America’s Department of Justice didn’t seem to suggest his involvement in acts of bribery totalling up to 150 million pounds over 24 years.

Until Blatter’s charged, it obviously can’t be stated with certainty that he was a party to the alleged corruption. Yet, the latest incident does beg the question — How much did he know?

For a man who has become synonymous with FIFA, Blatter did well to make the case that he remains clean. Sadly, it takes a massive leap of faith to believe so. All the alleged activities happened under his watch. During Blatter’s extraordinarily long stay at FIFA, it can be argued that never before has the organisation’s public standing been so low. FIFA’s nadir never arrives.

While the ruckus over the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids is far from over, other skeletons are tumbling out as well. Where does this end? Or, where does this begin?

In the light of the never-ending crisis, it should be stunning that Blatter managed to secure 133 of the 206 votes that were polled in the May 29 presidential election. However, such is the Swiss administrator’s clout that the only minor surprise was that he did not get more votes against his Jordanian opponent Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.

It would be remiss to believe that Prince Ali would have ushered in a new era for FIFA. The sport’s problems lie deeper. With little inclination for reform at the regional and national level, the problems afflicting FIFA are set to prolong. The elections and other similar administrative events only serve to reinforce a structure of governance that invites the mighty and powerful. It’s no wonder that the FIFA Congress seems like a glittering gathering of rulers, sheikhs and stooges of corrupt governments and companies. Until there’s a representation of a class that cares about football but has little say in its running, even the removal of Blatter will mean nothing. A similar megalomaniac will replace him.

The need for reform, hence, can’t be overestimated. It’s time for football’s administrative machinery to open its arms to people who have long fought for transparency and honesty within the sport’s administration.

Yet, it seems that this eventuality will remain out of our grasp. During the next four years, Blatter is likely to strengthen his iron-strong grip on football. As more benefits are likely to be showered upon nations that have traditionally been marginalised within the football family, it’s unlikely that a rebellion will arrive soon.

Some argue that the public distaste for Blatter is a construct of the Western media, particularly British. The Swiss man has himself accused UK journalists of being biased against him and his policies for global development of football. This, however, is a fatuous argument.

The issue of spreading the sport far and wide is essentially a red-herring in this debate. Corruption and politics of patronage can’t be a part of any plan, no matter how noble its intentions.

Interestingly, it’s Blatter’s one-time ally, UEFA President Michel Platini, who has repeatedly attacked the former’s vision. When the European nations sought the postponement of the FIFA elections in the light of the arrests, it was a serious statement of intent. No longer is UEFA willing to be a silent observer to the supposed murky dealings within FIFA. The European football’s governing body has displayed an unwillingness to be seen as corrupt by association.

Whether the threat of a FIFA boycott is real, it’s difficult to say. It’s quite unlikely that the World Cup will be skipped too. Too much will be lost by giving either of the two up. The economic and administrative mess that would ensue is likely to scare UEFA off.

Yet, it’s significant that this idea has been considered by the continental body. It’s revelatory of the grand mess FIFA has manufactured for itself.

Herein lies the hope for football. While Blatter continues to brazen it out, it’s the responsibility of the outside forces to maintain the pressure on the President and his cohorts. The media has played a notable role in bringing the situation to this point. The pressure needs to be sustained and ramped up without further delay.

There’s no doubt over the fact that FIFA has been rattled. While the officials from the governing body and Blatter himself have questioned the timing of the arrests, it represented a remarkable level of success to actually get it done. For long, FIFA officials have escaped accountability. Hence, it was fairly ironic that it took a much-maligned organisation like FBI to cause lasting pain to football’s global governing body.

The road ahead remains fraught with danger. But if the football fraternity had despaired over the past few years, recent weeks have given it reason to feel optimistic again.

Even Blatter can’t take that away from his detractors.

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