Last week arguably footballs biggest name, Pele nailed his colours to the FIFA mast. Not in support of FIFA president Sepp Blatter but for the wonderfully named 2015 candiate Jérôme Champagne.
Champagne announced his intentions to run against Blatter with a speech full of all the pomp and ceremony one would expect of a man with such an extravagant name. In reality though it is not all that likely that, even with the backing of the Brazilian god of football, he can pose a serious threat to Sepp Blatter in the 2015 presidential elections. Champagne talked at length about rebuilding trust and implementing change without actually specifying any policy he would role out if and when he was elected. Blatter did seem to however have a rival for the title of who could deliver the longest, most pontificating speech. All the talk of rebuilding trust does seem to point to an acceptance that there has been wrong doing at FIFA and without ever actually saying it, Champagne pointed the finger directly at the FIFA hierarchy.
Blatter who has held the post of FIFA president since 1998 has swatted away all that threatened his supremacy in past elections. Digging up dirt and making it all available to the press seems to be his favourite means of guaranteeing victory. This however comes at a cost, the press and media being the animal that they are. In 2011 Blatter ran unopposed as the only presidential candidate and duly swept to victory.This after a string of bribery accusations relating to voting for world cup bids were levelled at opposition members who had dared to think of running against him. These accusations came from inside and outside of FIFA and it is worth noting that Blatter himself has survived several claims made against him.
Mr Blatter seems to be playing a dangerous game. His supremacy remains seriously under challenged and accusations of corruption are knocked away by the man with the iron fist. This has done nothing to help the reputation of footballs world governing body which is now seen by many to be as corrupt as the world banking system. Journalists won’t go away and FIFA it seems won’t relent from giving them the opportunity to ask pointed questions. Let’s be clear not all of the allegations of corruption can be taken seriously, just as not all have gone unpunished, some heads have rolled. But in 2011 it wasn’t the man who has steered the FIFA ship for what now seems like an eternity, losing his job through allegations of corruption and paying for votes. No it was his rival Mohamed Bin Hammam who rightly lost his job just before he was due to run against Blatter for the presidency.
It was pointed out by many journalists at the time that it had never been easier for a FIFA president to get re-elected. Some even went as far as to say that Hammam had been crudely set up for a fall. What is worse for the reputation of football’s governing body is that, as an organisation, they don’t seem to be learning their lessons. The coach of the Qatar national team via 101greatgoals.com claiming that Blatter, in an attempt to patch up a fractured relationship with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, had asked him to vote for the Portuguese international in the Ballon d’Or. This story might be hearsay but it would be useful to Blatter to try and repair a relationship with Ronaldo when trying to build popularity in a world cup year that is leading to next years presidential elections. We are all by now I’m sure aware of the debacle surrounding the bids for the 2018 and 2022 world cups. Blatter saying his wish is to take football to every corner of the world whilst the media speculates on who was the highest bidder.
The only man who seems to be as unpopular (at least in England) as Mr Blatter is Michel Platini. Some media sources in the last six months have muted the idea that UEFA president could run against his FIFA counterpart in 2015. This after a series of public disagreements varying from very different opinions on goal line technology to format changes to European competitions. Platini himself stated, in September of last year, that he would not make a decision on whether to run for the presidency until after this years world cup. It seems however to be unlikely to be a viable choice. He would have to relinquish his UEFA post and as recent past would suggest, there are no guarantees that he would be afforded an obstacle free campaign.
With all this sleeze and alleged wrong doing it is hard not to visualise FIFA as a dysfunctional political party with Blatter as the dodgy leader. That being said and with Blatter’s age, shall we say, on the senior side of the spectrum it may be his death that offers the most realistic chance of us seeing a new heir to the FIFA throne. Then if we are lucky we can look forward to Platini taking over as Blatter mark II.