Sepp Blatter’s re-election to his fifth term as president of FIFA was a bit stunning. Can he fix it?
The New York Times is reporting that Blatter, who has just been reelected to head FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) for an unprecedented fifth term, should be considered as a trailblazer when it comes to the popularity and acceptance of women’s soccer. The women’s World Cup, which begins in Canada this coming Saturday, has benefited from Blatter’s insistence that the women’s game can grow and become as big a global spectacle as the men’s World Cup.
Under Blatter, the women’s game has expanded to 24 teams in the tournament, and many countries that didn’t have women’s teams have benefited from Blatter’s creation of Under 17 and Under 20 tournaments, as well as the funding for those tournaments. However, Blatter’s accomplishments are severely stained by his personal attitude towards the women, not the game. At one point, Blatter suggested women playing soccer wear tighter shorts because “women are pretty.”
Blatter’s legacy would be well-recognized if it weren’t for his behind-the-scenes misogyny. Blatter is padding his legacy and, more importantly, his seat of power. Blatter makes approximately $10 million (American) per year, but it’s in influence peddling where Blatter gains his favor, and Blatter’s cudgel of choice is the World Cup.
According to the Guardian, Blatter’s recent victory comes at the expense of a massive scandal. The next two World Cups will be held in Russia in 2018 and the gas-rich country of Qatar in 2022. While Russia doesn’t seem to be a bad choice for a World Cup, the choice of Qatar for a sporting event seemed rather ridiculous. In a country where the temperature at the time that the World Cup will be played averages about 110 to 120 degrees, hosting a sporting event doesn’t make sense.
Many claim that Blatter is just following the money, making the best deal possible for FIFA and for world soccer. Blatter’s history, however, shows that his main concern is for the preservation and promotion of his legacy in the soccer world. Entering his fifth term at the age of 79, Blatter has aligned himself with the money, not necessarily with the best situation for the sport. This is why the latest scandal should be so damning, but if Blatter is anything, he is a survivalist. He has been able to deflect the negative towards others and harvest the good for his benefit.
There may come a time when Blatter gets called to the carpet and made to atone for his actions. But, given that he has created the power structure that protects him, it doesn’t seem likely. Or soon.
[Image courtesy of the BBC]