Sepp Blatter: ‘a kind of genius for staying on the horse’

The world’s media was “scathing” in its coverage of the resignation of Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, on Tuesday, just four days after his re-election for a fifth term, says The Daily Telegraph. “An End of An Error”, quipped the Daily Mirror; France’s L’Équipe went “straight for the jugular”, with “acculé”, meaning “cornered”. Greg Dyke, the chairman of the English Football Association, said: “Clearly there’s a smoking gun. It’s not to do with Sepp Blatter being honourable.”

Not that his re-election had been any surprise, says William Langley in The Daily Telegraph. Over Blatter’s 17-year presidency, Fifa’s billions have been “constantly and ingeniously” deployed by the “Blofeld of football” from his “granite-lined lair, 50ft beneath a velvety Swiss hillside”. Fifa may be non-profit, but that “doesn’t mean it can’t make people rich”.

Blatter’s undisclosed annual salary is believed to be around £8m, and the “largesse trickles on down a long line of supplicants”. Many football associations come from “places where the national team would struggle to beat a Sunday morning park side, but along with the money they all get a vote, and… it’s usually for Blatter”. The poor son of a provincial factory worker, Blatter paid his way through university by working in ski resorts and as a wedding singer.

He began his career at Fifa in 1975, in PR, and worked his way up to the presidency in 1998. Since then, like Fidel Castro, he has shown “a kind of genius: not for running things, but for staying on the horse”, says Simon Kuper in the Financial Times.

He ensured that he, and everyone else in the “football family”, lived “first class”. Surrounded by sycophants, it’s no surprise he came to believe that everyone backed him except the “bitter English media and… US justice” – countries that lost bids to host the World Cups of 2018 and 2022. However, “ousting” a tyrant may be the “sweetest moment of a sorry tale”.

It might, agrees Owen Gibson in The Guardian. Provided the FBI “afford him the privilege”, Blatter will stay until a successor is chosen and go at “a time of his choosing”, having given himself up to nine months to “dispatch enemies and settle scores”. World football now faces the challenge of reforming a “patently” unfit institution.

Merryn

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