David Leggat: Fifa's folly lets slimy Sepp stay


A couple of things that might interest you about world sport's slipperiest operator, Sepp Blatter.

In a week where we've read of 90 celebrated verbal gaffes from the Duke of Edinburgh, did anyone recall the occasion when our Sepp - this week reconfirmed as leader of the global game - infuriated women soccer players several years ago by suggesting they should "wear tighter shorts and low-cut shirts ... to create a more female aesthetic" and attract more male fans.

He's scooped up a suitcase-full of honours. They include the Award of Merit from Yemen; the Order of the Two Niles from Sudan; the Necklace of Honour from the Ecuadorean Football Federation; and the Order of Dustlik, or Friendship, in Uzbekistan.

He also once remarked, with a straight face, that what he is most proud of is "the legacy of hope that Fifa and football leaves around the world. It makes all of the efforts and energy I pour into this job worth it".

Lord love the man. Brilliant stuff. Almost brings a tear to the eye, until you remember that, given the events of the past few days, it's time we all took a long shower.

The world's most popular sport has been run by a sack of weasels, nipping one another under stress, led by one of the great sporting/political survivors, and that's not necessarily intended as praise.

Blatter keeps his crown for another four years, and already he's made promises that Fifa will become more transparent. Best wait and see on that one.

By sheer coincidence, just as his rival for the presidency, Qatar's Mohammad bin Hammam, was getting some momentum into his campaign he was rubbed out by suspension over bribery allegations.

But Sepp just keeps rolling along, promising this, threatening that, railing against the evils of the British media.

The International Olympic Committee had its Salt Lake City bribes-for-votes scandal in 1998. This has been Fifa's darkest period.

Bribery allegations have been thrown this way and that, particularly over Qatar getting the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar, for goodness' sake, a relative dot barely half the size of the Waikato region.

Among Blatter's first moves after this week's vote was to push the awarding of World Cup rights over to the 200-plus member nations, rather than the greasy fingers of an executive committee with brown envelopes poking out of their trouser pockets, men with a degree in nest-feathering.

But the next vote is at least six years away, by which stage Blatter will be long gone.

For all the shenanigans claimed and counter-claimed in recent days, remember who has been presiding over it all and didn't exactly come down with an iron fist.

Certainly Fifa does good in some areas. They are not all political hoons and rogues.

If you look at those who spoke up for Blatter, several came from countries which have benefited from Fifa largesse on his watch.

There's an old line in there: follow the money. Those who have done well out of Blatter aren't about to shout him down. Of 203 nations, 186 voted in favour of the only name on the ballot. Turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

Blatter's reappointment does dash any hope Fifa had of lifting its public image above that of a deeply dubious organisation.

For four more years there will be suspicion hovering over Fifa's every significant move. Machinations will be read into every pronouncement. That's just the way it will be.

- NZ Herald

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