Monday, 28 November 2011

Sepp Blatter: A catalogue of errors

Sepp Blatter stunned football last week by claiming that discrimination should simply be settled by a handshake after the game. For the highly controversial FIFA President, this is not the first time that his comments have attracted criticism.

The 75 year old Swiss was voted into the role in 1998 in an election that has since been overshadowed by the sort of allegation that has blighted Blatter's reign. In 2002, the President of the Somali FA publicly claimed that he had been offered $100,000 for his vote. Whilst he rejected the offer, at least 18 other members allegedly accepted.

The claims of corruption within FIFA would return later, but Blatter's often harmful penchant for ill-judged comments has become a trademark feature.

In 2002, Blatter suggested that female footballers should wear tight shorts and low cut shirts in order to increase the popularity of the sport worldwide. Unsurprisingly, the condemnation of Blatter was fierce from within the women's game. Pauline Cope, the England goalkeeper at the time, described the FIFA President's comments as “completely irresponsible”. To complement his error of judgement, Blatter later accused the IOC of conducting their finances “like a housewife”, in reaction to further allegations of FIFA corruption.

Six years later, Blatter claimed that the game's millionaire superstars were “modern slaves” as Cristiano Ronaldo attempted to manoeuvre a transfer to Real Madrid., much to the irritation of Sir Alex Ferguson. Unfortunately for Blatter, the news of his claims broke on the same day that British tabloids pictured Ronaldo sunbathing with a supermodel on a golden beach, whilst fellow 'slave' Frank Lampard rejected a new £130,000 weekly deal at Chelsea.

Blatter's history of offending society extends far beyond women. In 2008, Blatter responded to questions about homosexual participation in football by saying “there are gay footballers, but they don't declare it because it will not be accepted in these macho organisations”. Two years later, when quizzed about Qatar's ability to host the World Cup despite homosexuality being illegal in the Arab state, Blatter joked that gay fans should “refrain from any sexual activities” throughout. Former basketball star and gay rights campaigner John Amaechi condemned Blatter's words as “absurd”.

However, one of Blatter's greatest challenges was the allegation of corruption within the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes by Lord Triesman. It was widely alleged in the British media that votes had been secured by large payments to FIFA members, with the organisation branded “rotten to the core”.

Blatter's reign continues to be highly controversial. Although his 'football for all' concept has been worthy of credit, with the 2010 South Africa World Cup successful in the short-term at least (doubts remain about the cost and true legacy of the tournament), pressure continues to build on FIFA's top man.

One thing is certain – it won't be long until Sepp Blatter's name makes the news once again.

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