Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Teflon Sepp the last clown standing

It's business as usual as Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA President with 186 votes and 17 abstentions.

As the stressed-looking General Secretary Jérôme Valcke called each nation's representative to the polling booth, I was reminded how FIFA works for the likes of Blatter - Aruba has as much say as Brazil, Vanuatu as much clout as England, Bangladesh the same amount of votes as Germany.

Harvesting the developing world for support is the reason the Swiss septuagenarian has survived again, just as it was for his equally controversial predecessor João Havelange, whose 95 year-old frame hovered around the Congress Hall in Zurich this afternoon, the phantom menace from football's past.

Blatter was never going to lose today even with Mohamed Bin-Hammam in the race, but in case we had forgotten his political savvy, he played a shrewd ace this morning by promising the World Cup hosting vote will henceforth be decided by all 208 member nations instead of just the 24-man Executive Committee - a small mercy.

Yet the whole ceremony was still a royal farce with only one name on the ballot paper, a pompous show of power from the leaves of a dictatorship. The many references to keeping things within the "family" had mafia overtones, while the sycophantic tributes from the delegates of Benin, Haiti and the D.R. Congo, as well as Julio Grondona's anglophobic rant, were sore reminders of the cultural gulf between the West and the rest in football. At least 17 nations had the guts to say no to Sepp, but that still leaves 186 sheep.

Back in the driving seat, Blatter will probably use the glow of victory to usher Bin-Hammam and Jack Warner out of the back door, while reassessing whether Michel Platini can wait at least four more years or will get itchy feet.

*Who's in charge at CONCACAF?
First Lisle Austin fires Chuck Blazer, then the CONCACAF Media Dept. issues a statement that Blazer is still employed and Austin had acted unlawfully, and then Austin releases a counter-statement that Blazer is out of a job after all, before Blazer insists "I still have my job, very much so".

At present there are two competing CONCACAF media offices - one in New York backing Blazer and the other manned by Austin from Jack Warner's lair in Trinidad. There seems to be a geographical fissure in their Ex.Co. with the Caribbeans outnumbered by the North & Central Americans...See you at the Gold Cup.

*And finally, FIFA's 208 national association delegates were asked to test the automatic voting system in Zurich by answering a simple question - "Who won the 2010 FIFA World Cup?"... and seven of them got it wrong.

-Sean O'Conor

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