FIFA’s 2015 Congress opened Thursday amidst Swiss and U.S. authorities making up for eons of lost time by maybe-finally-probably exposing soccer’s governing body for the corrupt, corpulent money-printing enterprise everyone knows it to be anyway. While Jack Warner blames a Zionist conspiracy, the Guardian’s Barney Ronay considers The State Of Sepp Blatter, with the latter left to weather “a rare storm in the 17-year history an extraordinarily bold, extraordinarily successful, cult of presidential personality” (“there is, unexpectedly, an actual election to be fought, possibly even an unexpected moment of crisis”).
It is hard, even after all these years, to get a handle on Blatter. There is a theory that, while he may be the dictatorial leader of a furiously corrupt sporting fiefdom, he is himself not that way inclined. Blatter isn’t in it for the money (of which he has vast amounts nonetheless). He’s in it for the kicks, the power, the oddly sensual cultish devotion. Hence his ability to stay clean by proxy, the lack of trail to his door. The FBI case will test this to the full. But here anyway, Blatter did manage to appear disappointed, humbled, saddened by the revelation – who knew! – of apparently vast corruption within the organisation he has moulded to his own image over the last 30 years.
“Dear friends … the events of yesterday … a long shadow over football,” Blatter went on, stressing several times that it was a “tiny minority” on the take. And this is certainly an interesting point of view. Not least when you consider the top table at last year’s Fifa congress, from which two of his own lieutenants were absent from the Hallenstadion, in police custody while Julio “Don Julio” Grondona, the most intimately connected with the dirty TV and marketing deals and a right-hand man in the Argentinian military junta of the late 1970s, has since died.
If this really is a minority, it’s hiding within plain sight of the president. What happens now will be fascinating. The suspicion that Blatter has this in hand, that a little purge now and then is no bad thing, has receded. This is a proper fight. Although quite what football might end up with remains to be seen.