FIFA President Sepp Blatter launched into an astonishing tirade against the British press today at the Asian Football Confederation’s meeting in São Paulo. With increased scrutiny surrounding Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup, Blatter went on the offensive against those in the British press criticizing the member of the Asian Confederation.
“We have seen what the British press has published,” “I don’t know what the reasoning is behind this but we must maintain unity.”
Blatter appealed to the delegates asking them to stick together behind its member nation’s successful World Cup bid. This came just a week after FIFA refused to consider new evidence uncovered by The Sunday Times regarding possible bribery related to the Qatar 2022 bid.
Later in the day Blatter attended a similar pre-World Cup gathering of the African Federation. In this meeting the FIFA President was even more direct in these comments raising the allegation of racism.
“Once again there is a sort of storm against Fifa relating to the Qatar World Cup. Sadly there’s a great deal of discrimination and racism and this hurts me. It really makes me sad, anything that smacks of discrimination and racism.”
Blatter’s clever redirect charging racism to African delegates fits into established FIFA political practices. When it comes to dealing with the British, the “anti-colonial/racist” card is one played often in FIFA meetings. To a certain extent this sentiment is also used against the United States, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
From a political standpoint keeping control of FIFA means rallying African, Asian and Caribbean nations against Britain and maybe even against UEFA. Blatter has decided he will seek another term as FIFA President, and with UEFA’s Michel Platini strongly thought to be running, the anti-colonial sentiment may be strategically stirred up again.
While it is true at times that the British press has been disparaging of potential World Cup and Euro host nations the idea that somehow the reporting on Qatar’s successful bid is driven by racism is easily dismissed.
Still it would be expected that Blatter will continue playing this theme as FIFA’s own history has proven that many in the organization respond to such rhetorical barbs.
Ironically Blatter did not address the continued problems of actual racism around football matches in his comments to either Confederation.