In the wee’s most unsurprising footballing news, Michel Platini has said he will not stand against Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency in 2015 and will instead run for re-election as the president of UEFA.
The Frenchman revealed his decision to UEFA delegates in Monaco and said he would instead continue his focus as the head of the European football ruling body.
Fifa executive committee member Michel D’Hooghe welcomed Platini’s decision not to oppose Blatter. “It was a very positive message. He said he would like to continue as UEFA president and I am pleased that it means that this time there will be no battle between Fifa and UEFA,” he said.
If Platini stood against Baltter, it would mean he could not stand for the UEFA presidency in March. His chances of toppling Blatter from his dictator’s throne were slim, to say the least. Five of Fifa’s six continental bodies have already announced their support for Blatter; only Europe has publicly opposed him. It looks likely Blatter will continue his reign, despite a poor track on everything from the fight against racism to general ignorance. Should Blatter continue in his post, he will have been in charge for 20 years by 2018.
How on earth is this healthy for the sport?
Between Platini and Blatter, the one is only slightly worse than the other. Platini isn’t exactly clean and his vote for the Qatar World Cup doesn’t look too good on paper. Blatter’s record (or lack thereof) ranges from sexist comments about women needing to play in tighter clothing to denying football has a racism problem.
Platini’s decision is not surprising because he knows Blatter will not give up the role until a successor has been groomed to continue the malaise that characterises the world governing body but which benefits its top management. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and Platini knows his power lies in a European stronghold. While vowing to fight for more places for European teams at the next World Cup (15 instead of the already inflated 13) or increasing the European Championships to a stodgy 24-team tournament, Platini knows how to woo the smaller nations in Europe. While he might not be able to challenge Blatter directly just yet, he is the King in Waiting, even if it means he has to wait another 10 years.
One of the problems in opposing Blatter, and there are many, is that very few can challenge his ‘campaign for inclusion’. Even if this campaign is nothing more than canoodling to win votes, he has played the political game of the sport to perfection. From the US in 1994 to Brazil in 2014, he has made sure everyone gets a slice of the World Cup pie – whatever the cost may be for those countries. In terms of politicking, it’s genius. It is also one of the many reasons why Blatter will continue to stay in the job as long as he wishes. He has schmoozed his way in with smaller countries and knows exactly how to win over those votes. If he keeps promising a bigger pie, those votes won’t go away anytime soon.
With another one-candidate vote looking the most likely outcome for the next Fifa elections, it’s unlikely football’s governing is going to get the makeover it so desperately needs any time soon – and everyone is complicit.
From the companies who keep ploughing money into Fifa to the football associations who have never bothered to stage a boycott or walkout, everyone is playing some small part in allowing this morally bankrupt machine to keep rolling on.
Football is the working person’s sport; that is, of course, why it came into existence in the first place. Yet it has become a corrupt cesspool for the ethically challenged to swim in. The tentacles of decay extend to all corners of the sport, so much so that league managers’ associations try to brush aside crude comments as just banter.
As long as Blatter or any of his cronies are in the power seats, nothing is going to change. The problem is that everyone and everything has become far too cosy to disrupt the balance and the organisation has become too powerful to ever be threatened, no matter how big its sins.
When it comes to politics, people often say a country gets the leaders it deserves. If football does mirror life and the sport itself also gets the leaders it deserve, then it truly had deteriorated into a pathetic state, which looks like it has no way back. DM
Photo: FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures as he addresses a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich May 30, 2011. Blatter denied soccer’s governing body was in crisis on Monday, saying his organisation would solve any “difficulties” internally. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
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