To get to Fifa Haus you take the No 6 tram to Zurich zoo. Fifa lives next door, neat gardens and curious works of art – such as the Sepp Blatter water trough, reduced to a trickle yesterday – surrounding the squat, bunker-esque building that huddles beneath the brow of one of the hills rising out of the city. Yesterday it housed Blatter and the other elderly big beasts who govern the global game.
By lunchtime a throng of cameramen and reporters were clustered around the entrance – there were 25 cameras in all collected from the world’s media, although the British as usual provided the largest contingent – who had come to learn, well, not much really it turned out.
Next door to the bunker Fifa staff played football on a pristine pitch. It was cold and damp, a world removed from the issue being discussed by the executive committee inside. The characteristic Swiss neatness of it all provided a misleading cover for the mess that the Ex-Co were attempting to clear up, a dog’s dinner of their own making (although it should be remembered Blatter did not himself vote for Qatar). It is estimated that seven of the 14 who voted for the Gulf state were sitting around the table yesterday.
It was a secret ballot three years ago and few of the 14, with the notable exception of Michel Platini, have since come out. After the two-day meeting ended at lunchtime yesterday – “We were very disciplined,” said Blatter – the members departed giving off a faint air of bemusement over what they had agreed. They had spent some time discussing the British press and their “obsession” with the workings of Fifa. But as for what had been decided… had they set up a taskforce? A committee? A flotilla?
As they departed scratching their heads it left the cage clear for the biggest beast of them all. This is Blatter’s kingdom, one which he has ruled for the last 15 years. And one that at the age of 77 he has no intention of letting go. There is a political edge to all this. His latest term as president is up in 2015 and he has previously said this would be his last. But then along came Platini and now Blatter is giving every indication that he will run again.
Yesterday he was in sparkling mood, a state that may well have been down to three “ladies” taking a seat at an Ex-Co meeting for the first time. He said it had brought “sunshine” to the Ex-Co. However, his words will not have spread much sunshine among foreign construction workers currently undertaking the immense infrastructure and stadium build in the Gulf state at sometimes dire cost.
He began his press conference with a simple statement and a shrug. “The Fifa World Cup 2022 will be played in Qatar. Voila.” There at a stroke went any attempt to make a stand against the conditions, to use the World Cup for the force of good he believes it can be. And after that it was all hot air about a hot summer, but that is for another day and probably another one after that, just so long as they can watch next year’s World Cup with, as Blatter put it, a “clear conscience”.