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Beyond Blatter’s Resignation From FIFA

It depends on the side the country belongs in the crossfire; at issue is the reality that Blatter has been trying to make football bigger and better by taking it to all parts of the world

The international football federation, FIFA, is currently embroiled in tussles that would make tough football matches look like friendly games. The news all over the world is on corruption in FIFA. Even amid all the talk about corruption, the embattled Sepp Blatter won re-election as FIFA President and then offered to resign his post four days later. Blatter promised to organize another election at the turn of the year for his successor to take over. Beyond the charges of corruption and Blatter’s offer of resignation, it is crucial to address the geopolitics that has attended to FIFA’s affairs over the years.

Blatter enjoyed the support of African delegates, the Asians, Latin Americans, Russia and Oceania. There was no love lost between Blatter’s FIFA and the Western media. Blatter’s challenger in the election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, was obviously in cahoots with Michel Platini, the former great French footballer and president of the European football federation, UEFA. Platini had described Prince Ali as the great hope for football and an antidote to corruption because “he is a prince and he doesn’t need the money”.

UEFA members with the support of America simply cannot stand FIFA under the leadership of Blatter. It is not a hidden fact that the 209 members of the football body are divided into two camps – Europe (minus Russia and Spain) and North America versus the rest of the world.

About two days before the FIFA election, the United States used the facility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to arrest seven high-ranking FIFA representatives on corruption charges following a raid on their Zurich hotel. After the officials – all from Central and South America – were taken into custody, US attorney-general Loretta Lynch called them “criminals” and demanded that the World Cup allotted to Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) be cancelled. Fighting fit, Blatter blasted the US for “targeting” football’s world body and slammed Europe’s football bosses for a “hate” campaign.

We cannot deny in good conscience that there is no corruption in FIFA, given for instance the travails of Jack Warner. The football body is indeed riddled with corruption but the sad matter is that geopolitics is also very much at issue here. This hideous politicking ends up making the entire matter very messy indeed.

American investigation into allegations of bribery in FIFA goes as far back as 1991, but it is somewhat very tacky when arrests are made two days before a crucial election. There is no denying that the raids were strategically timed to arrest Blatter’s backers. According to a Brazilian football federation (CBF) official, “It happened like an intelligence operation.

Our phones were tapped. The police came to the hotel and picked these officials up as if they were being kidnapped. Why arrest them just 24 hours before the election? They were not running away. Why did the cops come with three American journalists in tow? FIFA is based in Switzerland. All its official business is done in Switzerland. How come the Americans suddenly jumped into it even as a Swiss probe in going on?” It was revealed that the Europeans who did not have the courage to arrest anyone called on the Americans to force everyone to vote for Blatter’s opponent, Prince Ali. So it became very obvious that the Europeans and the Americans wanted to get rid of Blatter by all means and put their stooge in his place.

It backfired such that even those of the delegates who had doubts about Blatter’s leadership decided to vote for him. In his 17 years at the helm of FIFA Blatter could be said to have refused to play geopolitical games as demanded by Europeans and Americans. The respected independent journalist Shobhan Saxena writes: “Blatter’s problems with the US began in 2005 when he declined the then US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s demand for Iran to be thrown out of the 2006 World Cup as part of sanctions against the Asian country.

Things became worse when the Palestinians were allowed to join the global football association.” It depends on the side the country belongs in the crossfire; at issue is the reality that Blatter has been trying to make football bigger and better by taking it to all parts of the world. Of course the Europeans have been worried about losing control; and for the Americans who call football soccer, the game is an instrument of their politics and Blatter has somewhat become a hurdle in the process. Boasting of a very large number of 209 members, FIFA is bigger than the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as well as even the United Nations.

It had been dominated by Europeans for most of its history until the advent of Brazil’s Joao Havelange who was eventually succeeded by Blatter. The wily man from Switzerland, that is Batter, changed things dramatically by taking the World Cup to new regions, especially to developing countries. According to the football writer Thiago Cassis,“The past two editions of the World Cup have been played in South Africa and Brazil.

The next one is in Russia. All three are BRICS countries. It’s obvious that the west is not very happy with this. All this talk about corruption is an attempt by Europe and America to bring the game back into their sphere of influence. There is a lot of corruption in European football too. They do not talk about it. This whole game is not about tackling corruption, but regaining control.”

When Europe dominated world football, nobody could have imagined that the World Cup would one day go to Africa, as it did in 2010, or that three emerging countries would host the mega-event back-to-back. Come to think of it, China is eyeing the 2026 tournament, which the US also wants to host. The panic in the West is at a boiling-point as the developing countries, with their growing economies and huge TV audiences, threaten to take the game away from them. It stands to reason that even India, which has been given the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, may make a bid for a future World Cup.

Blatter’s efforts at making football a truly global sport cannot be gainsaid. With Blatter in-charge, FIFA has invested millions of dollars in infrastructure and projects in Africa and Asia. The Euro-American move against FIFA officials on charges of corruption is thus seen by most countries as a desperate Western effort to isolate Russia and re-open the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

We believe that anyone that comes to equity must come with clean hands. Even as Blatter has on his own agreed to step down as the boss of FIFA, we call on him to conduct a free and fair election in which one vote will be for each country no matter the claims of the Europeans and Americans.

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