IS this the beginning of the end for Sepp Blatter?
The FIFA president — dubbed ‘Sepptic Blatter’ by UK tabloid The Sun in the wake of allegations of corruption within football’s governing body — was firmly in the firing line of the world press today.
While his name wasn’t among the 14 high-ranking FIFA officials charged with a range of corruption charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money launderingthere is renewed hope the controversy will spell the end of his 17-year reign in charge of the most powerful body in world sport.
Piers Morgan, writing for the Mail Online, described Blatter as the “corrupt, poisonous toad of FIFA who’s been sucking the life out of football for years”.
“I had tears in my eyes this morning when news broke of the arrests of seven top FIFA executives. Not from misery. But from laughter at the suggestion from certain quarters that this is a ‘sad day for football’,” Morgan wrote.
“I can’t think of a better day for football ... in my entire 45 years of watching and loving the game. Because make no mistake, this is the day that signifies the beginning of the end of the despicable, despotic reign of FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter.”
Criticism has flowed thick and fast in Blatter’s direction in the lead up to the election for the FIFA presidency this Friday.
No lesser name than Diego Maradona, the Argentinian legend rated by any as one of the game’s greatest players, is fed up with Blatter’s influence.
“In the last few decades, football has changed — and not for the better. Once, it was a sport you could be proud of, a sport that united the world. But FIFA, its governing body, has turned into a playground for the corrupt,” Maradona wrote in The Telegraph. “Most football fans can predict what I am about to say next: Under Sepp Blatter, FIFA has become a disgrace and a painful embarrassment to those of us who care about football deeply.”
FIFA insists the election will go on as scheduled and despite the controversy of the past 24 hours, the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes expects Blatter to be re-elected for a fifth term. “When the 79-year-old walks out into Zurich’s vast Hallenstadion on Friday for FIFA’s presidential election, he is unlikely to fear any opposition. There are just 209 electors, many of them representing small footballing nations, and Mr Blatter has been cultivating them for years,” Faulkes wrote.
“After the withdrawal of Luis Figo and Michael van Praag, there is only one man standing against Mr Blatter, Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, and Mr Hussein will almost certainly not command enough votes to pose any kind of threat. So barring any unexpected upsets, Mr Blatter will assume an unprecedented fifth four-year term, and in doing so remain in charge of a multibillion-dollar sport.”