Sepp Blatter Must Go: FIFA President Is More out of Touch Than Ever
Sepp Blatter is a dichotomous character.
On the one hand, he is a smart and erudite businessman, with a long and varied career in political organizations that has led him to the pinnacle of the most popular sport in the world.
On the other hand, he is a charlatan with a long rap sheet of alleged corruption, a buffoon who makes embarrassing gaffes and a leader who never fails to misjudge the temperature of controversial issues.
For these reasons, he simply must stand down from his role as FIFA president.
Before he replaced Joao Havelange in the FIFA hotseat in 1998, Blatter had enjoyed stints as FIFA General Secretary and Technical Director. Prior to working with football's governing body, he cut his teeth in sports administration at the IOC, where he became a pupil and close friend of scandal-laden Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Prior to his work with the IOC, Blatter already had his first presidential experience under his belt as the head of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, an organization that encouraged women to wear suspenders instead of pantyhose.
That isn't a malicious Wiki hack—he seriously did that.
This early interest in mixing political leadership with the absurd has remained throughout his career, while a penchant for the objectification of women arose once again when he announced that female soccer players should wear "tighter shorts" to make the women's game more appealing.
This astoundingly sexist assertion was by no means the first—or last—time Blatter has made comments unfitting of a FIFA president.
Following Cristiano Ronaldo's drawn-out $130 million transfer to Real Madrid, Blatter announced that there is "too much modern slavery" in the game. Understandably, comparing a world-famous footballer who earns $400,000 a week to the plight of the slaves did not go down well.
His measured response to the John Terry affair scandal that saw the Chelsea defender stripped of his England captaincy was: "If this had happened in the Latin countries, I think he would have been applauded."
When asked for advice on what homosexuals should do when travelling to the Qatar 2022 World Cup (more on that later), he joked: "I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities."
In terms of progressing the game, his silver goal extra time rule was scrapped and deemed a failure, he has shown staunch opposition to goal-line technology, and in 2004, he stated his belief that draws should be outlawed: "Every game should have a winner," he told a German journalist.
One of Blatter's biggest gaffes, however, was his astounding 2011 claim that there is no racism in football. Immediately contradicting himself, Blatter said that racist incidents could be resolved with a "handshake."
Which leads us to his latest contribution to the racism debate. Following last week's Italian friendly in which Milan and Pro Patria players abandoned the game due to racist crowd trouble, Blatter said Kevin-Prince Boateng was wrong to "run away" and lead the players off the field.
Boateng has been praised for his reaction to the racist chanting by his manager, club owner Silvio Berlusconi and just about everyone else in the wider football community. Among others, Blatter's ill thought-out comments have evoked anger with Piara Powar, head of anti-racism body Fare. He said (via The Guardian):
"We disagree entirely with the idea that Kevin-Prince Boateng ran away from the Milan match in which he was subjected to racial abuse. It's a nonsensical suggestion.
"What does Sepp Blatter know about what it is to be abused or excluded because you are an ethic minority, and what might be the right or wrong way to respond? The point is that the hard-won processes put in place to deal with issues of discriminatory abuse, that apply from referees all the way up to international disciplinary commissions, are not being implemented."
How can Blatter represent a sport when his opinions are so out of touch with most of those who play and work in it? Can he not see that he is detested by the majority of those he presides over? At 76 years old, does he not feel impugned to stand aside for a man (or woman) who could bring more to the role than a string of upsetting knee-jerk statements?
Sadly, unless he chooses to stand down, we are stuck with Blatter until 2015.
He was most recently re-elected in 2011, when all other candidates were suspended or withdrew from the race. (Blatter received criticism for not postponing the vote, but a man who has allegedly been tied to numerous corruption scandals was never likely to give himself unnecessary opposition.)
For now, we are stuck with a senior citizen who had made racist, sexist and homophobic comments in the line of duty. We are stuck with a man who oversaw a World Cup bidding process that gave the 2022 tournament to a country with searing arid heat, few stadiums, no tolerance for alcohol or homosexuals—but plenty of money. We are stuck with the former president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders.
Until Blatter is removed from the post he has held for 14-and-a-half years, the beautiful game will continue to have an ugly side in its upper echelons.
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