Saturday 22 October 2016

Paul Hyland: Bin lids and beat boxes - the weird world of Sepp Blatter

FIFA President Sepp Blatter makes a speech during the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich
FIFA President Sepp Blatter makes a speech during the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich

FROM the moment the lad began to beat two Roswell shaped bin lids and FIFA’s theme tune emerged with a vaguely Caribbean lilt, it was very obvious that nothing short of a shaped nuclear charge will prise Sepp Blatter loose.

FIFA Congress opening ceremony and business as usual. Bizarre doesn’t quite cover it but really, this is the kind of stuff they do all the time.

They love their kitsch flag ceremonies and wheel out comely Swiss lasses to beat the band. Massed yodelling, strange 70s disco lighting and a truly excruciating segment with urban dancing and beat-boxing. It’s part of the entertainment for the puffed up delegate, a bit like a cruise ship.

At some point in these events, they wheel out a bunch of kids and this is when everything becomes uncomfortable. The juxtaposition of fresh young faces against the lived-in jowels of octogenarian senior FIFA men never looks quite right.

In between the dancing and the prancing and bin lid beating, Sepp gave another one of his speeches, a great man beset by munchkins. Out in the hall they applauded and as a matter of certainty, there were plenty present who thought he was marvellous.

The representative for Burkina Faso believes that criticism of Blatter is “blasphemy”.

Sepp has always looked a bit weedy and when he went for pathos and spoke about his love for the game, the studied pause was just a bit too studied, the catch in his voice artificial. It was a performance and not a very good one.

But it doesn’t matter how it plays in the outside world. FIFA Congress lives in a bubble and the only important element of this is how his speech played in the room.

The choreography of this week has been to load pressure onto Blatter before the election and whether they intended it or not, the FBI, the US Justice Department and the Swiss Attorney General created a window which he could have used to resign.

He let it be known that he would not choose that path and when Michel Platini gave him another chance and he declined, it was clear that Blatter will try to ride yet another storm, this the biggest of all, or go down in flames.

Don’t rule out another police raid or a few well-chosen phrases from the FBI before the vote takes place. Our friends in America have set the pace for this story and could intervene once again.

If he does manage to win the vote, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he could then be arrested.

As for his defence of himself? Nonsense. Here’s a sample.

“Many hold me ultimately responsible for the actions and reputation of the global football community, whether it’s the destination of the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal.

“We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.

The ‘nothing to do with  me’ line doesn’t quite cut it when most of your friends and supporters are helping the police with investigations into “a 24-year global fraud” as the Justice Department described it.

Blatter is finished and it looks like he hasn’t quite connected with that reality yet.

Like any politician, he can deflect and pretend, duck and weave but he can’t hide from the Feds and they have the bit between their teeth.

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