By Paul Kennedy
FIFA president Sepp Blatterlikes to portray himself as a man of the world -- more specifically, a man of the Third World that brought him to power in 1998 and helped keep him there for four terms. But it doesn't take much to get him talking about his Swiss roots.
On Monday, Blatter was in the Grand Caymans to kick off the Concacaf Sports Summit and express his support for the reforms under Caymanian banker Jeffrey Webb, whom he helped install as Concacaf president following the resignation of Jack Warner.
Blatter was speaking at the Ritz-Carlton and soon digressed, telling a "small story" about how he was coming from Switzerland's Upper Valais, where the Rhone River begins as a stream and Cesar Ritzgrew up. He told the story of how Ritz began as a humble concierge and went on to become the most famous hotelier in the world. Blatter probably tells the Ritz story every time he stays in a Ritz-Carlton -- which means he likely tells the story often.
Keeping the 77-year-old Blatter on script has never been easy, and it gets harder as he gets on in years, exposing his many contradictions. He likes to distance himself from European soccer -- reiterating on Monday that with eight members, twice as many as any other confederation, UEFA is overrepresented on the executive committee -- but European soccer is what he knows best.
Blatter talked about the Iceland-Croatia playoff series drawn that morning and how the "ice bears" would be cheering for Iceland to qualify for the World Cup for the first time -- the rare polar bear spotted in Iceland has drifted on an iceberg from Greenland -- but as he talked about the positive leadership of Concacaf's representatives "participating" not just "demanding" on the FIFA executive committee -- American Sunil Gulati was elected in April -- he had to turn to Webb and ask him where "Rafael" -- GuatemalanRafael Salguero, elected in 2007 -- was from. Such slip-ups make for interesting Sepp watching these days.
At the Concacaf Sports Summit's gala dinner on Monday night, the master of ceremonies inadvertently introduced Blatter as a FIFA vice president -- a position Webb holds -- and Blatter took the microphone and joked, "I think you're a prophet." He went on to say FIFA could have a new president in the near future and he "could be Jeffrey Webb."
Blatter's remarks were the clearest evidence yet that he does not plan to back his supposed heir apparent, Frenchman Michel Platini, but they begged the question, what does Webb himself think of the idea?
The 49-year-old Webb, who was educated in Tampa and heads the FIFA anti-discrimination task force, says he has enough to do running Concacaf and no plans to run for FIFA president in 2015 but he might consider it later.