A FIFA press conference beginning with Sepp Blatter exclaiming, “We have to clean here”? Sounds promising. Perhaps at last, as the United States/Switzerland dragnet continues to tighten, the FIFA president is taking reform seriously.
But no. Blatter was talking literally, as in we have to clean a load of banknotes off the stage because British comedian Simon Brodkin has gatecrashed the presser and threw fake money at me, announcing himself as a delegate from North Korea’s 2026 bid.
Of course, this was a senseless and pointless act which must be condemned. Blatter and FIFA don’t need any more money.
Also, with Blatter on stage, the event didn’t need any more comedians, either. “I just called my late mother and she said don’t worry, it’s just a lack of education,” he said. It’s not the first time he’s tried to communicate with his dead mom.
“In football you never know where the limits are,” Blatter added. Looking at the rap sheet against the arrested senior FIFA executives and the life of Chuck Blazer, it’s hard to disagree.
Since the Zurich raid nearly two months ago, much of the media focus has been on Blatter’s failure to stand down. Yet the 79-year-old seems to believe that he’s been out of the spotlight. “Sometime you have the impression that after the tsunami that on May 27 came to Zurich, the waves of the tsunami took me away. No, no, not at all, I am still here,” he said. Exactly, Sepp. Exactly.
He also apologized to the media for addressing them while sitting on a chair behind a desk, rather than standing at a podium. Because etiquette was uppermost in everyone’s thoughts at an event called to announce that a new president will be elected on Feb. 26 and that FIFA will undergo another reform as a result of an extraordinary crisis, with the formation of an 11-person task force. (Eleven people … like a soccer team!)
“We had a reform process since 2011 but there were still a few points that were not dealt with,” Blatter said. Yeah, you could say that.
In the spirit of this newfound commitment to transparency, two British journalists asked him to reveal his salary. Of course, he rambled, obfuscated and didn’t give a clear answer. “You can ask me this question the whole afternoon if you want,” he said.
Did he feel any sense of shame or personal responsibility for the crisis? “Regret,” he said. “I cannot be declared responsible for the moral comportment of members that I have not elected.” That’s the sort of logic that’s helped senior executives of major financial institutions avoid personal consequences for the financial crash that crippled the world economy.
Blatter was, though, unequivocal that he will step down after a new presidential election in February next year – a mere nine months after the U.S.-instigated arrests. “I will not be a candidate for the election in 2016,” he said.
Britain’s Press Association reported today that UEFA grand fromage Michel Platini is the firm favorite to replace Blatter, with four of the six FIFA confederations swinging behind his expected candidacy, which could be announced as early as this week. Still, the fact the election’s so far away — candidates don’t have to officially declare until Oct. 26 — means there’s lots of time for things to change.
Not that Blatter will then retire after these final nine months of his glorious reign. He has so much still to give. “I think I will come back to my work, a little bit my hobby I have to say, I was a journalist but this time I will go to radio because I think radio is the most popular item in information because it’s 24 hours and everybody can listen and if you’re traveling around the world everyone has radio and it’s easier to talk than write,” he said.
It’s easy to imagine he’ll get plenty of offers. Sepp Blatter, radio host? He has the potential to be sport’s ultimate shock jock. He could be a regular star guest on the Dan Le Batard show. In a profession where spouting ill-informed nonsense is a vital qualification, he’d be a surefire hit.