FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s attempts at demagoguery and playing at fear may have gone over well with Asian and African nations on Monday but Tuesday he faced he major backlash from leaders in the European game.
Michael van Praag, a Dutch Executive Committee member of UEFA, the governing body of European football, said to a newspaper in the Netherlands:
“People link FIFA to corruption and bribery and all kinds of old boy’s network. The image of Fifa has been tarnished by everything that has happened over the last years. There are very few people who still take Fifa seriously and whatever way you want to cut and dice it, Blatter is responsible in the end,”
Blatter promised in 2011 to not run for another term as FIFA President but has gone back on that opting to again seek reelection. UEFA President Michel Platini was once seen as the heir apparent to Blatter and should he persist with running the one time French playing great will likely be able to count on solid support from his own confederation. But recent reports have indicated that Platini is so disillusioned with FIFA he may simply retreat from the organization entirely. If Platini does not run it is still highly likely leading European nations will find a candidate albeit perhaps a symbolic one to challenge Blatter’s reelection.
Yesterday’s comments by Blatter elicited a strong reaction from Britain, the nation whose media was targeted by the FIFA President. English FA Chairman Greg Dyke said the following of Blatter.
“I said to him, ‘I regard the comments you made yesterday about allegations in the British media in which you described them as racist as totally unacceptable.
“The allegations being made are nothing to do with the racism, they are allegations about corruption.
“The very fact in 2011 he was clear it was just for four years, that should have been the situation. To change his mind is disappointing.
“Personally yes, I think we need to move on. I think we need a full, frank and open debate about what FIFA needs going forward.”
England’s one FIFA Executive Committee member former Manchester United Chief Executive David Gill also spoke out on Blatter’s targeting of the English press.
“The statement made by Mr Blatter yesterday was from our point of view totally incorrect,”
“This was about the issue being raised quite rightly in the British media which should be addressed by the world governing body and to try and portray it as racist or a discriminatory attack is totally unacceptable.”
Gill also urged Blatter to move on next year when his current term expires.
“The very fact in 2011 he was clear it was just for four years, that should have been the situation. To change his mind is disappointing. Personally yes, I think we need to move on. I think we need a full, frank and open debate about what FIFA needs going forward.”
What has become obvious though is that Blatter is unfazed by criticism in the European press. Given the FIFA President’s penchant for demonizing critics and playing into the anti-colonial biases of many non-European FIFA Executive Committee members. The continued discussion of FIFA’s alleged corruption coupled with the rhetoric of FIFA leadership will likely further the resolve in European circles to mount an effective challenge to Blatter.