James Lawton: A mountain of charges but nothing can touch Fifa chief

The great revenue stream will flow on – along, you have to presume, with the sweetheart deals and the kickbacks
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The Independent Football

By comparison with John Gotti, the mob leader they called The Teflon Don, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has a far superior talent. Not only do charges against him not stick, they do not touch.

They do not impinge on his extraordinary front, his capacity to deflect any question, however biting, however informed by the realities of his organisation's scandalous situation, with statements of stunning complacency.

Last night he faced the world not as a man charged with bringing the world's best game into the most serious disrepute in its history, but as the indignant head of a happy but briefly inconvenienced family. He told reporters to mind their manners because they were not in a bazaar.

If there had been thunder around, surely this would have been time for the lightning to strike. But there was no surprise in the style of Blatter's management. He has been doing it for 13 years now, and like a born survivor he reaches out for every piece of flotsam that comes bobbing along.

Yesterday, the good old Football Association supplied a fair measure of it – as it did at the dawn of his empire when it switched its vote from Uefa president Lennart Johannson to Blatter on the promise of the 2006 World Cup – when its briefly conducted inquiry into former chairman Lord Triesman's claims that he had fended off four bribery attempts from Fifa executive committee members on the way to the vote for 2018 provided sweet music to the president's ears.

There was no case to answer, said Blatter serenely. Nor did he have to respond to charges that, like his banned rival Mohamed bin Hamman, he had also interfered in the voting process.

Of course the presidential election would proceed, as it did in 2002 in Seoul when he was voted in by "acclamation" despite a whole raft of charges that Fifa was shot through with corruption.

The family had survived that little difficulty, as it would this one, Blatter insisted. He seemed to be saying he was unstoppable, and looking forward to four more years of absolute control of world football.

If you considered the fate of football inconsequential, you could have simply laughed at a bravura performance, a contemptuous dismissal of a mountain of helpful evidence against almost every phrase he uttered. Instead, though, there had to be an ultimate revulsion – especially when he cited the example of Barcelona's superb performance in the Champions League final at Wembley at the weekend as evidence of what football achieves on and off the field.

In both places, Blatter told us, football continues to show its brilliance in demonstrating unity and strength and imagination. What were a few passing difficulties when compared with this grand and noble design?

Most astonishing is his well-practiced ability to display hurt at the injustices of a grateful world. The future was secure, he said, and seamless. Yes, of course there would be World Cups in Brazil in 2014, then in Russia and then in Qatar. The great revenue stream would flow on – along, you had to presume, with the sweetheart deals and the kickbacks.

Triesman claimed that Trinidad's Jack Warner, who has now fallen on the wrong side of Blatter's line between the good and the bad, had asked for a £2m donation for the personal legacy of a school-cum-sports academy. He said Sir Dave Richards, veteran of English football, had been present at the time but there was no corroboration. Nor for the request for a knighthood, or an offer that could not be refused or a deal for TV rights in Thailand. But the charges didn't touch, still less stick. They never do.

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