ZURICH - FIFA president Sepp Blatter may
have come across as being out of touch with the fan in the
street at his astonishing news conference on Monday, but the
75-year-old Swiss had another audience firmly in his mind.
Flatly denying there was any crisis at FIFA amid a room of
heckling reporters, he still delivered a message that the
majority of the ruling body's 208 member countries wanted to
He admitted the sport's ruling body was facing
"difficulties" but the members should be assured that their
strong leader would take care of business as he has done for the
last 13 years.
It is not the fan in the street that keeps Blatter in what
he described himself as "his privileged position" but the
presidents and chairmen who vote to have him in power.
On Wednesday, they will not even have to do that as the man
who was planning to stand against him, 62-year-old Qatari
Mohamed Bin Hammam, was banned from all football related
activity on Sunday following an inquiry by FIFA's Ethics Committee into bribery allegations.
So Blatter took centre-stage in FIFA's auditorium, standing
behind a lectern with artificial flowers in containers at his
feet to add a touch of colour to the otherwise sombre grey and
His mood also seemed to veer between steely grey and black
as he ran through his usual repertoire of buzz-words and phrases
like "football family," "devils in football" and "I used to be a
After one vociferous English reporter demanded the answer to
a shouted question despite not having the floor microphone,
Blatter responded: "Listen gentlemen, I accepted to have a press
conference with you, alone here, I respect you, please respect
me and the procedure of the press conference.
"Don't intervene, we are not in a bazaar here, and we are in
the FIFA House, in front of a very important FIFA Congress."
Blatter later responded to another journalist who laughed
openly at one of his answers.
"You can laugh," he said. "But that is also an attitude,
elegance is also an attitude and respect is also an attitude.
"I have learned this in my life."
There were other outbursts from journalists unhappy that
they were not able to ask questions, and the news conference
ended with a German reporter shouting so loudly at Blatter that
he returned to the lectern before walking away again.
Through it all, Blatter managed to keep his composure, but
clearly he is feeling the kind of pressure he has not been under
since the financial mismanagement crisis of 2002 when his then
secretary general Michel Zen-Ruffinen produced a 30-page
document outlining FIFA's financial woes.
Just over two weeks ago Blatter thumped the desk with his
fist when he was asked about corruption while in South Africa
and, at times on Monday, he looked his 75 years.
Despite his age and FIFA's problems, Blatter will be
re-elected unopposed to stand for a fourth and, he says, his
final term as president, with his retirement date pencilled in
for 2015 when he will be 79.
Asked what he felt about Bin Hammam's aborted challenge,
Blatter whacked the question into touch like a full-back taking
no chances with a troublesome loose ball.
"Personally, I was prepared to go into an election process
with another candidate and then the Congress would have decided,
but now the situation has changed," he said.
But asked if he was part of FIFA's problem, that he needed
to go for FIFA to reform, he replied: "The Congress will decide
if I am a valid or non valid candidate - the delegates on
Wednesday have the opportunity to restore FIFA's credibility."
He made one other comment that was not quite what he
Blatter was elected president in 1998 and he told reporters:
"I have to say at the beginning of FIFA when I entered 36 years
ago, we had no problem until 1998 because this was the so-called
"Now we are a comfortable FIFA and I think because we are
too comfortable with such a situation then all the little devils
can enter the game.
"We have started to fight and we are in a bad situation but
we have the possibility at the Congress on Wednesday if the
delegates want to take it, if they want to restore this
credibility of FIFA and restore it with me."
As a warm-up act, it was quite a turn. Not exactly the
performance of a lifetime, but one that might just see him and
FIFA through the current crisis, or whatever term he would like
to use to describe it.
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