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Sepp Blatter: the eternal optimist

By Hyder Jawad



FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers a speech next to the Club World Cup trophy prior to the the draw for the Club World Cup Japan 2012 on September 24, 2012 at the headquaters of the World football's governing body in Zurich
FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers a speech next to the Club World Cup trophy prior to the the draw for the Club World Cup Japan 2012 on September 24, 2012 at the headquaters of the World football's governing body in Zurich

Joseph S. Blatter, Fifa president, disseminator of flawed wisdom, wants to become a football pundit. At least, so he says. It might have been a cheap, throwaway line, but media rules decree that it will become a statement of intent – and it will follow him around like a bad smell.

“I would comment on the games but I would not say 'now he passes right or left' because everybody can see that on TV,” Blatter said. “I would make my comments on tactics or techniques.”

The worry, of course, is that if Blatter rarely talks with dexterity about the subjects he knows well, how can he possibly expect to make himself understood when discussing the vagaries of football tactics?

I had the fortune of interviewing Blatter. Well, it was not really an interview. I was at one of his press conferences in Yokohama during the 2002 World Cup. There were so few people at the event, in fact, that those of us present were free to ask questions until we needed a toilet break. (Twenty minutes, in my case, as I am vegetarian).

My first question was about ticketing problems. It was a valid question. The World Cup was a sell-out yet the matches in Korea took place amid the backdrop of empty seats. What was going on? How would Fifa, the world’s governing body, put it right at World Cup 2006 in Germany?

Blatter looked put out at my question – or maybe my Liverpool accent disorientated him – and he twisted his face into something resembling a character from an Amicus horror movie. The implications were clear: how dare you challenge the status quo.

Blatter replied, because he always does, but he said nothing of interest – not even by accident. I transcribed my quotes and realised, a few hundred words in, that I did not have anything resembling a story. I have just bombarded the president of Fifa with questions and his responses contain all the substance of a soap bubble. Yippee!

Never in the field of human discourse had one man said so little with so many words.

Of course, maybe my questions were bad (possible) or maybe he was in a bad mood (likely) or maybe the myriad empty seats made him realise that he as a person was less important than the title he carries.

Blatter will vacate his position with Fifa in 2015. He has one World Cup left – in Brazil, in 2014 – and two years in which to plan his next steps. He would make a bad pundit because he does not understand the game. On the other hand, having him as a pundit might stop him from putting his other fingers in other pies.

Either way, we, the public, cannot really win.