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  • Writer's picturePaul Rhys

Blatter's long walk out of FIFA

From Al Jazeera Zurich, Switzerland

Whatever else may be wrong with Sepp Blatter, he is rarely boring.

Just as the international media assembled at the banned FIFA president's press conference in Zurich on Monday, Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" started blaring out over the PA system on repeat.

By the seventh time it had played, Blatter's subliminal message was clear.

"We've...come too give up...who we are," crooned Pharrell Williams through the speakers, finding himself an unwitting spokesman for Blatter and Michel Platini, who both came out fighting on Monday after being banned from football for eight years over a dodgy $2m payment.

There was a brief respite when some Swiss-German hip-hop made it onto the playlist. Blatter had, after all, driven up to the venue sporting a plaster on his cheek in the style of US rapper Nelly.

Was Sepp going to spit some rhymes?

Sadly, his entrance into the auditorium was more sombre. The music stopped, a door was opened onto a terrace overlooking the Alps, and a church bell began to toll.

In oozed Blatter, and the cameras flashed.

"To say that it was a good day for me, or for FIFA - this would be totally wrong," said the Swiss, removing any possible speculation that he had received the news of his punishment with a roar of triumph.

Blatter has been in charge of world football's governing body for 17 years. And he reminded us that his remit has gone far beyond overseeing an organisation whose officials have the habit of being arrested in dawn raids on overpriced hotel suites.

He also took the World Cup to South Africa in 2010, leading to a visit to that same auditorium in Zurich from a man who made almost as much of an impact on the African continent as Blatter himself.

"When he was sitting here next to me in this room, [Nelson] Mandela spoke about humanity," Blatter said of a scene that, regrettably, was left out of the film Long Walk To Freedom.

The implication was clear. Madiba's teachings had been ignored by FIFA’s Ethics Committee.

Proximity to Nelson Mandela's oratory skill had not been lost on Blatter though, as he unsheathed a rhetorical weapon guaranteed to get even the most sceptical audience onside.


"I'm really sorry," he said, as some of the more naive of those present anticipated that Blatter was about to apologise for something he had done.

"I'm sorry that I'm still somewhere a punching ball. I'm sorry for football. I'm sorry for how I am treated in this world of humanity."

He then summed up how bizarre it was for the Ethics Committee to consider it wrong of him to make a mysterious payment of $2m to Platini three months before the Frenchman left him to run unopposed in the 2011 presidential election, in which Platini encouraged European associations to vote for Blatter. Who had just given him $2m.

"Suspended eight years. Suspended for what?" Blatter asked.

Well, not suspended for corruption or bribery, as the Ethics Committee stopped short of that. But certainly for a conflict of interest.

"Perhaps I am not the cleverest man in the world at the moment,” said Blatter, before congratulating Barcelona on their Club World Cup win.

Having got the one quote they came for, Spanish journalists rushed out of the room to phone it back to their editors.

Blatter is not stupid. He answered questions in three languages, has steered FIFA to such wealth that it has reserves of $1.5bn, and still manages to get people hanging on his every word while rambling through an hour-long press conference.

Despite his claim to be a punching ball, Blatter got his cheek bandage due to having a mole removed.

But he remains a fighter, and is unlikely to let the small matter of overwhelming evidence stop him from making a bid to

oversee the FIFA presidential election on February 26.

"I'll be back," he said as he left the room.

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