ZURICH - Sepp Blatter was back to his
usual confident self after being re-elected as FIFA president on
Wednesday, looking almost as if the corruption scandals which
have battered world football's governing body had never happened.
Instead of fending off questions about cash-for-votes, a
relaxed Blatter was contemplating the possibility that Henry
Kissinger and Johan Cruyff might join his fight against
corruption and that, for the first time, a woman could sit on
the FIFA executive committee.
Positive and assured while switching between four different
languages, it was hard to believe that only 72 hours earlier
Blatter had been investigated, and cleared, by FIFA's ethics
committee over the presidential election campaign.
"We have instruments needed to restart the credibility of
FIFA," the 75-year-old Swiss told reporters shortly after being
re-elected unopposed for a fourth stint to confound his critics
"We wondered if the unity of FIFA could be maintained.
Everybody was looking for solutions and we will apply them."
Within minutes of being re-elected, Blatter had already
begun his promised reforms of FIFA as he forced through changes
to the way in which World Cup host nations are elected and
introduced a new internal watchdog with the ominous name "the
He admitted that FIFA had been given a "yellow card" after
the most turbulent months of his 13-year reign, with four
members of his executive committee being suspended over
These included Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Asian Football
Confederation head and due to face Blatter in the election until
he was provisionally banned on Sunday, and Jack Warner, a
long-term ally of Blatter and seen as one of FIFA's most
Bin Hammam and Warner are both being investigated over
allegations that they offered cash to Caribbean officials to
vote for the Qatari at the FIFA election. Blatter, meanwhile,
was investigated over allegations he may have been aware of
payments being made.
Yet Blatter, mixing his metaphors as he first likened FIFA
to an off-course ship and then a shaking pyramid, survived it
all, performing an escape act which had a sense of deja vu for
many FIFA observers.
In 2001, FIFA faced potential financial problems following
the collapse of FIFA marketing partner ISL/ISMM and Blatter was
subjected to intense pressure to reveal details of FIFA
He recovered from that ordeal and FIFA has since made
millions through sponsorship and television deals.
The following year, Blatter faced further troubles when
FIFA's then secretary general Michel Zen-Ruffinen claimed
Blatter's 1998 election victory was based on bribery and
Blatter threatened legal action but never followed up the
threat and, when he beat Issa Hayatou of Cameroon by 139 votes
to 56 in that year's election, Zen-Ruffinen was soon out of a
By Wednesday evening, Blatter, who often makes references to
his past experience as a newspaper reporter and amateur
goalkeeper, was back on more familiar ground.
He said that one of his targets in his final four years as
FIFA president was to have a woman sitting on the executive
committee, even if he had to create an extra place for this to
His suggestion that former U.S. Secretary of State
Kissinger, now 88, and the often outspoken former Dutch
international Cruyff could join his fight to reform the way FIFA
policies itself raised more than a few eyebrows.
Blatter, who likes to remind the media that he was once a
reporter himself and also played in goal for an amateur team,
will not stand again for president after his new mandate expires
With no re-election to worry about, Blatter believes he will
have a free hand and has promised this could be the most
productive of all.
Having previously suggested that interest could be drummed
up in women's football if players wore skimpier shorts and that
the World Cup be played every two years, it will be intriguing
to see what he comes up with next.
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