"A man who gets 50 ideas a day, 51 of them bad": Is it time to bid adieu to Blatter?
CHANGE; the word that bridged the racial divides in the United States to make Barack Obama the first African American President of perhaps the strongest nation in the world is set to influence the world again. Albeit this time it’s the turn of World of Football to experience the change. Sepp Blatter, who has been happily (/sadly; your perception) in-charge of FIFA since 1998 faces his biggest challenge till date from a long term patron, Mohamed bin Hammam.
Hammam, the current Asian Football Confederation president is said to be in contention to challenge FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter as the Swiss hopes to extend his term at FIFA for a consecutive fourth term. The charismatic Qatari, who has been serving as a member of FIFA’s 24-men executive committee since 1996, is yet to file an official entry, but he dropped the biggest hint of his intentions to contest the election and posted on his facebook account,
“Competition is the best way to make the organisation vibrant and alive. Competition is good for the organisation, whether president or any other posts.”
Earlier in January, the 61 year old had said,
“A change is a demand for an improvement really. I cannot be 100% frank with you, but I think FIFA needs lot of improvement. I think there is a scope of work I can do, there is something I can present and do for international football.”
To a certain extent, Hammam is correct. FIFA does need a change. There has been mismanagement and voices have been raising against the administration from even inside the office for quite some time now. Blatter has earned a reputation of being a lunatic (to be frank) and his various ideas have been laughed upon from all sections of the football world. The major slip-ups from the FIFA chief (for the time being) include:
- FIFA’s secretary-general, Michel Zen-Ruffinen drew up a 30-page dossier outlining allegations of financial mismanagement within the organisation. The allegations were backed by Johansson,and the dossier was handed to the Swiss authorities, but they cleared Blatter of any wrong doing and FIFA had to pay all the costs.
- Blatter: “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”
Do I need to say anything more? I guess the chief has said more than enough.
- In 2006, after a World Cup match between Portugal and Netherlands, Blatter himself criticized the referee, Valentin Ivanov, who had shown 16 yellow and four red cards saying, “It could have been a yellow card for the referee too. He was not performing at the same level as the players were. It was a great spectacle, but the refereeing did nothing else but ruin the whole thing, as well as some total lack of fair play from the players”.
Considering what scrutiny the managers in the EPL have to go through for making slightest of comments on the referees, Blatter’s comment was enough to earn him a life long ban from public speaking.
- His post match comments on the France-Ireland World Cup qualifier match where Thiery Henry was accused of handling the ball were labeled “unsporting” by the Irish fans. The FIFA president had burst into laughter as he told the story of how the FAI had requested to be the ’33rd team’ at next summer’s World Cup.
- His continuous on-off statements on the use of goal line technology in football has irritated the fans who want the technology to come into action as soon as possible following the errors like the one in the 2010 World Cup where Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany was disallowed.
- Widening the post: FIFA (read Blatter) proposed a shocking change; Widening the goal by 20 inches (equal to the diameter of two balls) and adding one ball diameter’s height to the crossbar, a change that would have marked the first alteration to the size of the goal since the game was institutionalized in the late 18th century. The argument given was that the size of an average soccer player had increased since the time the dimensions were fixed.
- Scrapping the offside rule: Post his meeting with Leandro Nagre, President of International Hockey Federation, Sepp was adamant to abolish the offside rule in football “like they did in hockey“. However like many other ideas of his, this masterpiece was thankfully never brought into practice.
- The biggest dud of his career can be seen as the 2022 World Cup. Allowing a country, where drinking is restricted in the 50degree heat, to host the biggest event in the football world can be dubbed as nothing but a major mistake. FIFA was again accused of taking bribe to allot the World Cup to Russia and Qatar.
- His other “commendable” ideas involved banning of playing the national anthem before a match, playing the world cup on artificial pitches, hosting the world cup every two years and splitting the game into four quarters.
Thankfully none of the “genius ideas” came into practice and even after 13 years of Blatter, we are still able to enjoy the beautiful game in more or less its original format. On the other hand, Hammam is an interesting character himself. A self made multimillionaire, he owns the Kemco group of companies that handle construction, real estate and drilling in the Gulf. He first came into notice when he was elected as the president of a Qatari club Al Rayyan in 1972. His 15 year stay as the club president at Al Rayyan was succeeded by brief stints as president of Qatari Volleyball Association and Qatari Table Tennis Association. He was elected to join the FIFA executive committee in 1996 where he was known to be a patron of Sepp Blatter. He played an important role in Blatter’s campaigns in 1998 and 2002 but things changed when Blatter decided to contest the election for the third consecutive time, against Hammam’s wishes. Hammam wanted to contest the elections himself and thus since then the two have been building support and trying to undermine each other. The FA and CONCACAF have been vocal in their support to Hammam which shows the back-room work that Hammam has been doing for the past 4 years. Hammam is also a master in marketing himself and is known to handle the media efficiently. He is active on his blog and his facebook account from where he stays in direct touch with the common masses.
Although so far, Hammam hasn’t filed his nomination for the election but has vowed to make up his mind within 10 days. Candidates must be nominated by the end of this month, and need the backing of at least one of FIFA’s 208 national associations to be eligible. With the above “achievements” of Blatter’s career in mind along with the fact that Blatter managed to win just 66 of the 207 votes last time around, one can expect that a change is not too far away in FIFA.