Shamed man with no shame

Shamed man with no shame
A man wearing a mask depicting FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding Swiss Francs stands next to a woman holding a banner reading "Game over for Blatter" during a protest held in front of the Hallenstadium where the 65th FIFA Congress takes place in Zurich

From corrupt kings to mafia bosses, omnipotent leaders always know when they're beaten in the end.

Ego usually succumbs to the reality of defeat. But Sepp Blatter is no ordinary leader.

When he had the chance, finally, to do the right thing, the Fifa president couldn't bring himself to fall on his sword.

He couldn't salvage what was left of his dignity and Fifa's tattered reputation. Instead, he fought on for an unthinkable, unforgivable fifth term as Fifa president.

At press time, vote counters were busy piling up the votes for Blatter and his only rival, Prince Ali Al Hussein of Jordan.

The voting blocks of Africa and Asia were expected to prop up their paymaster, hoping for future handouts for their unquestioned loyalty.

Blatter simply cannot win without the votes from a compliant Asian Football Confederation.

The Football Federation of Australia publicly declared its intention to break away from the continental block and vote for Prince Ali's progressive manifesto - one built on a platform of transparency and grassroots development.

He ran on the promise of downgrading his power, reducing the tyrannical control of the presidency and moving towards a more open process.

ASIAN SUPPORT

But the AFC had already declared their backing for Blatter.

As a continent, we must question and challenge the motives of our football confederation because the instinctive emotion must be one of shame.

Unfortunately, that humiliation does not extend to the most shamed man in world football.

Blatter was unmoved last night.

In a frankly absurd speech, Blatter admitted there were a few rotten apples in the camp, before adding: "You can't just ask people to behave ethically just like that."

He feigned ignorance, adding that it was impossible to oversee 209 member associations.

But he didn't have to. He only needed to police the Fifa executives arrested on charges of corruptions. He couldn't even manage that. So was he either corrupt or ignorant? There is no middle ground here.

And yet, extraordinarily, Blatter still slips through the cracks.

Fourteen current and former Fifa executives have been arrested on corruption charges, as part of a staggering US Department of Justice indictment, over racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

The formidable Loretta Lynch, the American attorney general, laid out 47 corruption charges against nine top Fifa officials and five marketing executives. She has referred to Fifa as an organisation rife with "racketeers".

Blatter often refers to Fifa as a global family. Who knew he meant the Sopranos?

So he continues to rely on his fawning voters in Africa and Asia, making them offers they can't refuse.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday called for Blatter's removal and greater transparency.

Greg Dyke, chairman of the English FA, demanded a coordinated European boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, if Blatter didn't go.

PLATINI'S PLEA

Uefa president Michel Platini had already pleaded with his former mentor to step aside.

But Blatter didn't listen. He never has.

With added poignancy, protesters gathered outside the Fifa headquarters in Zurich to take action over Qatar's mistreatment of migrant workers building the 2022 World Cup's infrastructure.

An investigation has already revealed that 964 construction workers died in Qatar in 2012 and 2013; the figure is expected to reach 4,000 by the time the first ball is kicked in 2022. In other words, more workers will die before the World Cup than the number of footballers who will play inside the stadiums.

But Blatter did nothing, other than renege on the original agreement and back a winter tournament and make some idiotic comments about gay football fans staying away to avoid persecution.

Even his homeland is fed up with him and his organisation's lavish US$255 million ($344m) headquarters in Zurich; an ugly symbol to greed and corruption.

After raiding the building, Swiss authorities continue their investigations in the 2018 and 2022 bidding races, with Australian and British authorities eager to join the party.

Finally, after years of international inertia, leading states are now willing to do what Blatter has refused to do for decades.

Follow the money. Trace the stench. Take down the corrupt. Restore credibility.

But Blatter's self-serving acolytes are only interested in the status quo.

HOOKED

They seek to prop up the 79-year-old for a fifth term so he can drip-feed the cash at regular intervals, like a Dickensian aristocrat throwing down scraps for beggars.

If Blatter endures, in any capacity, then greed has won. A shamed man has no shame. But then, nor do the voters who back such a rotten establishment.

When there's so much cash at stake, it seems, there's no place for a conscience.

npsports@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 30, 2015.
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