Secret plots to replace FIFA boss Blatter
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday 8 February, 2009
‘Look out Sepp! No! Omigod, call an ambulance!’ Too late. No second chances with the steel wheels on those Zurich trams. Once the self-confident Herr Blatter, now 73, came to expect traffic to halt when the FIFA President stepped off the kerb, the end of an era was in sight.
Talk of the succession has been taboo in his glass palace above Zurich. Sepp is immortal! Sepp will rule forever! Not in the dreams of the Swiss detectives investigating FIFA’s money laundering routes that spirited away more than £70 million in kickbacks.
If Blatter is indicted the tectonic plates will ripple beneath world football. It’s hard to see how he could cling to the throne. The sponsors – the ultimate power at FIFA – wouldn’t want a repeat in 2010 of the embarrassing opening ceremony in Seoul in 2002 when the Maximum Leader was booed after a dodgy re-election.
If the tram doesn’t get him and the coppers do, two gangs of executioners are poised to pull the lever on FIFA’s gallows and send Sepp flying off into the dark void. Snap!
Currently, any challenge is hopeless. Blatter practises light-touch auditing of FIFA development grants and World Cup ticket allocations – and his voters love it.
Waiting in ambush is the French Foreign Legion-led UEFA battalion. President Michel Platini is moving out of the shadow of Blatter who helped get him elected. But if he doesn’t do something about the mobsters match-fixing in Eastern Europe, he will deflate and ‘Euro 2012’ be inscribed on his headstone.
FIFA’s chef de paperclips Jérôme Valcke may hope to emulate Blatter, stepping up in 1998 to succeed Brazilian president Havelange. Valcke’s rival inside FIFA is Blatter’s personal fixer, former French diplomat Jérôme Champagne. He’s courting the vote in the Francophone countries – but some of the electors will want cash Jerome hasn’t got unless he can find a commercial sponsor who wants FIFA contracts.
The Bayern Munich division of the Adidas brigade began plotting the day after the cops raided FIFA House in November 2005. They are backing Franz Beckenbauer. His campaign began in early 2006 when he toured the world as a ‘World Cup Ambassador,’ clutching a replica of the trophy and shaking hands with hundreds of football officials who vote at FIFA congresses.
Beckenbauer grabbed the global limelight again when Blatter, again fearing the boos, didn’t show up to present the Jules Rimet trophy to Italy. That job was done by Germany’s state president Horst Koehler. Who was the most important FIFA official on the podium to present loser’s medals to the French team? Michel Platini? No! It was Franz Beckenbauer.
Hoping to be kingmaker again – he was indispensable to Blatter’s 1998 campaign – is Qatar’s moneybags Mohammed Bin Hammam. Soon to emerge from FIFA’s youth academy is Mexico’s TV mogul Guillermo Canedo whose dad sat on the executive committee for 35 years. The Latins and Jack Warner, miffed when Havelange had to go, want the top job out of Europe and back in their back yard.
What do they inherit? A mighty billion-dollar money machine with global reach. It must be a major corporation? Nope. To keep scrutiny, transparency and accountability at bay FIFA is registered in the canton of Zurich as a verein – a little club of volunteers. It enjoys the same legal status as charitable organisations like ‘The Library for the Albanian people,’ ‘The Dalai Lama in Switzerland’ and ‘The Zurich Gay Men’s Choir.’
Sunday Herald, 15 February 2009 -