Blatter Wins and Football is the Loser
11:17 AM Sat 30th May, 2015 - Admin
The reason Blatter will remain as FIFA president for a fifth term -- maybe more, who knows? -- was made evident in both his acceptance speech, shortly after challenger Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein's concession and in his closing remarks to the congress. And it's all about what he called "my Ocean 11" but presumably meant to call "Oceania 11," referring to the 11 nations of the Oceania Football Confederation. It's far and away the smallest confederation by population -- less than 15 million -- and probably by football heritage and tradition.
Yet Blatter went out of his way to praise them in back-to-back speeches. He talked about how they needed respect and more than the 0.5 World Cup slots the likes of the Cook Islands, Vanuatu and American Samoa currently compete for.
In those "Ocean 11" references was the key to his enduring success. Blatter looks after the "little guy" -- the guy who would be a piece of lint on the backside of the world game were it not for him. This is his power base. This is where he built his success.
This man from Switzerland, one of the richest countries in the world, time and again convinces the have-nots that he is their champion and, to be fair, once in power, he delivers -- delivers in the form of committee slots (he also talked about expanding the executive committee from 25 to 30 places, and each spot comes with a $300,000 annual stipend), World Cup places and, crucially, development grants.
And he does it in the most charming way, though always ready to politick his way and adjust with the wind based on the situation. CONMEBOL, South America's confederation, used to be a lock for Blatter.
Now that a generation of CONMEBOL officials have either passed away or are facing prison time, the confederation is inching away from him, so he finds support elsewhere. Like in Asia. Four years ago, it looked like the Asian Football Confederation was firmly behind its president, Mohamed bin Hammam, who was challenging Blatter for the top post. Bin Hammam was expelled by FIFA on corruption charges, as was his chief ally (and former Blatter loyalist), CONCACAF boss Jack Warner.
You'd have thought CONCACAF and AFC voters, so ready to oppose Blatter four years ago, would harbor some kind of a grudge after FIFA threw out their leaders. But no. It's a secret ballot, but it's pretty obvious by the final count that Blatter cleaned up in Asia -- despite the fact that his challenger was from the AFC -- and took more than half the votes in CONCACAF.
This is politics of the highest order. And few do it better than Blatter does, shedding positions chameleon-like and rewarding -- this is the same Blatter who backed the United States for the World Cup 2022 bid and now hints that Qatar is the only solution -- at least for a while, those who stand with him.
In a free election, such tactics work when there's a political virtuoso like Blatter implementing them.
That may depress a lot of you. So here's a teeny, tiny silver lining: 73 anti-Blatter votes were far more than anyone expected even just last week. We assumed for a long time that most of the FIFA voters who return him to power time and again are either corrupt or don't care enough about corruption elsewhere to make a change. That may still be true. But there are fewer of them than before.
It's also undeniable that FIFA is under more scrutiny than ever, and not just from the media and disgruntled observers in Europe. There are two separate ongoing criminal investigations. There are serious questions about Russia 2018 and, further down the road, Qatar 2022.
The more lights being shined, the more the darkness dissipates. Many just wish it wouldn't take so freaking long.
Article from ESPN Soccernet
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