Has it come to this? The guy who voted to give the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is the only man who can save us from four more years of Sepp Blatter?
Pretty much. UEFA prez Michel Platini has emerged as the key figure in the unseat-Sepp movement that’s been given fresh momentum by Wednesday’s arrests.
In fact, Platini’s already told Blatter to his face that he needs to get gone. How did he respond, Michel?
“I asked him to resign: enough is enough, Sepp. He listened to me but he told me it is too late,” he said in a news conference.
Too late? This guy really does have an excuse for everything, doesn’t he? In fact, too late will be Friday, when Blatter’s likely to be reelected as FIFA president for the 234th time. Timing-wise, today would seem perfect, then. But no.
Platini and Blatter have a fairly complex and long-standing relationship, one complicated by the power struggle between UEFA and FIFA. Europe clearly sees this latest scandal as an opportunity to further its interests by unseating a man who derives much of his power from the votes of minor soccer nations on other continents.
And it’s helpful for Platini’s PR purposes that few would disagree that on this occasion, boosting UEFA’s interests and doing the right thing by ousting Blatter are neatly aligned.
Or maybe Platini’s just pissed that this whole thing totally overshadowed the Europa League final, which you didn’t watch but was actually a really good game.
Anyway, Platini expects most of UEFA’s nations to vote for Blatter’s only remaining challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. But that would only represent about a quarter of the electorate. And Blatter has a loyal base of supporters, notably in Africa, which remains grateful for being awarded the 2010 World Cup. The Asian Football Confederation’s members are also mostly going to vote Blatter.
The fear factor of going against Blatter has diminished now that his credibility has been further damaged. Still, the little nations — who’ve been generously funded by FIFA on Blatter’s watch with scant oversight or accountability as to where the money has gone — have no incentive to vote for a candidate who’ll likely favor the big European countries. Other than the whole “for the good of the game” thing, but there’s no private jet trips and five-star hotel stays to be gained from that warm and fuzzy argument.
There’s a ton of political pressure on Blatter, but that’s all just noise. It’s made headlines, but he’s not going to care that British representative David Gill says he’ll resign from the executive committee if Blatter wins tomorrow. Yes, the UK government wants him gone; but Russian prez Bad Vlad Putin is backing him. An election victory will give Blatter the chance to argue that he has been given a democratic mandate to continue by FIFA’s members.
Say Blatter is reelected tomorrow. What then? All hope is not lost. Just as ex-CONCACAF big cheese Chuck Blazer reportedly did with the FBI, we can expect that some of those arrested will try to cut deals with the feds, who surely view Blatter as the grand prize still up for grabs.
And presumably they have some interesting stories to tell, raising the tantalizing and bizarre theoretical possibility that the odious Trinidad-based ex-FIFA bigwig Jack Warner could be the man who takes down Blatter.
UEFA can also make life incredibly uncomfortable for FIFA, by withholding co-operation, threatening boycotts or a breakaway… and not giving them any Champions League final tickets. Me-ow!
Of course, there’s always the hope that pressure from FIFA’s major sponsors – some of whom have issued mild-to-moderately critical statements — could force change. After all, during an international corruption crisis, who among us doesn’t look to giant corporations for ethical guidance?