In an extraordinary outpouring of self-pity, Sepp Blatter, the most powerful man in world football, claimed that he had been portrayed as a “Bond villain” when Robin Hood would be a more appropriate comparison.
Pouring his heart out to an audience of undergraduates, the 77-year-old President of Fifa talked of his troubled birth and first days as “a helpless baby struggling for life” before launching into a pained analysis of his public image.
“Perhaps you think I am a ruthless parasite sucking the lifeblood out of the world and out of football! The Godfather of the Fifa gravy train! An out-of-touch, heartless schmoozer!” he moaned to the Oxford Union.
“There are not many names that the media haven't thrown at me in the last few years. And I would be lying to you if it did not hurt, even if you know that it goes with the territory. You would have to have a heart of stone for it not to hurt. You ask yourself, what have I done?”
For the past 15 years Blatter has presided over world football's governing body, a period when it has repeatedly been the subject of corruption scandals and claims of cronyism. The President has attracted controversy for saying that women footballers should wear tighter shorts and low cut tops, that racism in football doesn't exist, and that gay fans should not have sex while at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
But he told students: “I am a football progressive.” Staging a World Cup in South Africa had "changed people's perceptions and people's prejudices”. Money from World Cups helped to fund the women's game.
“There are those who will tell you that Fifa is just a conspiracy, a scam, accountable to nobody and too powerful for anyone to resist. There are those who will tell you of the supposed sordid secrets that lie deep in our Bond villain headquarters in the hills above Zurich, where we apparently plot to exploit the unfortunate and the weak.
"They would have you believe that I sit in my office with a sinister grin, gently stroking the chin of an expensive, white Persian cat as my terrible sidekicks scour the earth to force countries to host the World Cup and to hand over all of their money,“ he said.
"You might have been led to believe Fifa is the evil Sheriff of Nottingham of football. But the truth is we have more in common with Robin Hood."
Throughout his presidency, Blatter has been subjected to fierce criticism by the British media and he used his lecture to quash the "falsehood“ that ”we at Fifa have something against the United Kingdom and its people“.
He sprinkled his speech with British cultural references as he tried to win new friends. ”My love for the United Kingdom and its culture and heritage is rock solid,“ he said, before making references to the Houses of Parliament, Wembley Lord's and Wordsworth.
He implored the students to acknowledge a lifetime's struggle against adversity since he was born so prematurely that his grandmother told his mother ”to not try to save me because it was not worth the trouble".
The football chief has, in his own words, gone on to become "a servant" of the beautiful game, "breaking down barriers and bringing people together through football".
That, he told the Oxford Union, "is what FIFA and Sepp Blatter have always been about. For the game, for the world!“
Blatter is to be the subject of a feature film linked to the 2014 World Cup in which he will be played by Tim Roth. Although never a Bond villain, the British actor came to fame playing the part of Mr Orange in the gangster film Reservoir Dogs.Reuse content