Joseph “Sepp” Blatter reelected as FIFA president despite scandals in soccer organization
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Delegates from the 208 FIFA nations attending the 61st FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, first shot down England’s proposal on a 172-17 vote, then opted to keep Blatter, 75, in power for another four years on a 186-17 vote, with only 203 ballots cast.
The vote came after David Bernstein, chairman of England’s Football Assn., made and attempt to infuse some sanity into scandal-ridden FIFA by calling for a postponement so that more reform-minded candidates could emerge.
“The election has turned into a one-horse race,” Bernstein said. “Only with a contested election will the winner have . . . a proper, credible mandate. We are faced by an unsatisfactory situation. We are subject to universal criticism from governments, sponsors, the media and the wider world.”
But the delegates reacted with what appeared to be an orchestrated attack on England by Blatter supporters that was remarkable for its ferocity. The outpouring of scorn came -- almost predictably -- from such soccer nonentity nations as Haiti, Cyprus, Benin and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nations whose delegates are loyal to Blatter. But there was also a verbal barrage aimed at England’s investigative media by Julio Grondona, the 79-year-old president of the Argentine Football Assn. and a FIFA senior vice president who himself has frequently been the target of corruption charges in Argentina and abroad.
“It looks like England is always complaining, so please, I say, will you leave the FIFA family alone,” Grondona said. “We always have attacks from England. Their journalism is more busy lying than telling the truth.”
Grondona went so far as to say he would never vote for England until the Falkland Islands were returned to Argentina -- a clear mixing of politics with sport, a tactic FIFA itself criticizes.
Blatter’s comments before his reelection were the usual platitudes. “I am the captain of the ship and we are weathering the storm,” he said. “Our ship is in troubled water and this is why we need to put the ship back on course -- and for that we need a leader.”
In his only remark of note, Blatter said that future World Cup hosts, starting in 2026, would be voted on by the 208 members of FIFA, not by the 24-man executive committee. But even that concession had a catch. It will be the executive committee that decides the list of candidates.
No other substantive reforms were announced by Blatter during the morning session of the FIFA Congress, and the afternoon session was more of a coronation than an examination of the troubled FIFA.
-- Grahame L. Jones