Banned from football for eight years, unshaven, eighty years old and with a plaster below his right eye, Sepp Blatter led the world’s press back to Fifa’s abandoned old headquarters to issue an hour long rant of defiance.
He’d hired the room as a private citizen. He also positioned an Adidas football on the raised platform in front of him, despite it having absolutely no connection whatsoever to this surreal events. He must have brought it with him.
It was an exercise in self-delusion that veered between the Major in Fawlty Towers and those Japanese Second World War privates discovered maintaining their positions on pacific islands in the 1970s, unable to accept the war was over.
“I am sorry,” he said, before making absolutely clear he was sorry for nothing. “ I am sorry that I am a punching ball. I am sorry that I am as President a punching ball. I am sorry for Fifa. I am sorry for me. Sorry for the way I am treated in this world of humanitarian qualities.”
It was to this auditorium, he reminded, that he had once brought “that great humanist Nelson Mandela.” (There was no mention, of course, of the “extreme pressure” put on Mr Mandela to attend the 2010 World Cup Opening Ceremony whilst both deeply unwell and grieving for his very recently killed grand daughter.)
Two hours previously, the Adjudicatory Chamber of Fifa’s Ethics Committee, and the German judge who is in charge of it, had banned Mr Blatter from all football for eight years. It had clearly him of corruption, but the charge of financial mismanagement had stuck, with regard to the now notorious £1.35m payment he authorised to Michel Platini in 2011, apparently for work done nine years earlier, for which no formal contract exists. “It was a gentlemen’s agreement,” he said, again. He has said as much many times.
Fifa, now, must try to move on. But it is clear Mr Blatter will not allow it. He will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and as he issued his call of defiance, taking questions in four different languages, he again claimed Fifa’s Ethics Committee does not have the power to suspend him. But it was he who created the Ethics Committee and, according to its own statutes, it does.
That Blatter will not go gently pushes Fifa’s existence ever closer to the brink. Sheikh Salman of Bahrain is now the very strong favourite to succeed him in February’s election. Europe’s big footballing power brokers may yet decide it is time to wield their power. But many of them - including France and Spain - are firmly believed to have voted for Blatter last June, so don’t be so certain.
For the man who has moved himself and his organisation so far beyond the boundary of shame that it surely cannot find its way back, this would have been a fitting end. But, we have not heard the last of Blatter, and like all overblown tragedies, it will only get more tragic.
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