[FIFA]You can say what you want about Sepp Blatter, but the FIFA president isn't afraid to say what's on his mind. Speaking Friday at the Oxford Union on the eve of the FA's 150th anniversary dinner celebration, he responded passionately to criticism about FIFA and his tenure as president. "You would have to have a heart of stone for it not to hurt," he said. Here are some excerpts.
"You may think you know what FIFA is. What it does. What it aspires to be. A faceless machine printing money at the expense of the beautiful game, with me pulling the strings and laughing all the way to the bank. There are those who will tell you that football is just a heartless, money-spinning game or just a pointless kick-about on the grass."
"There are those who will tell you that FIFA is just a conspiracy, a scam, accountable to nobody and too powerful for anyone to resist. There are those who will tell you of the supposed sordid secrets that lie deep in our Bond villain headquarters in the hills above Zurich, where we apparently plot to exploit the unfortunate and the weak. They would have you believe that I sit in my office with a sinister grin, gently stroking the chin of an expensive, white Persian cat as my terrible sidekicks scour the earth to force countries to host the World Cup and to hand over all of their money."
"But that is not who we are. Not FIFA. Not me. I have dedicated my life for the good of football around the world, in the belief that football has the power to build a better future. FIFA exists to develop the game for all around the world. Not to exploit it. Because we love the game, recognize its power and feel a strong duty to society."
"Perhaps you think I am a ruthless parasite sucking the lifeblood out of the world and out of football! The godfather of the FIFA gravy train! An out-of-touch, heartless schmoozer! There are not many names that the media haven't thrown at me in the last few years. And I would be lying to you if it did not hurt, even if you know that it goes with the territory."
On the profits it generates from the World Cup ...
"Contrary to what you might have heard, FIFA does not expect host nations to hand over suitcases of cash to FIFA. We do not ask for billions of dollars in public money and then bury it all in the Alps."
On FIFA's redistribution of World Cup profits ...
"It gives children everywhere the chance to dream, compete and learn. FIFA believes football is for all, no matter who or where you are. I know some people will still feel that the World Cup is too expensive for the host country. That is a national debate for the host nation to have. It is also a debate for the world of football."
"You might have been led to believe FIFA is the evil Sheriff of Nottingham of football. But the truth is we have more in common with Robin Hood. Taking the money we get from our commercial partners and plowing it back into the grassroots of the game for all to benefit."
On his battle with the British press ...
"I very nearly did not make it past birth … even then, as a helpless baby struggling for life, there were some people who were against me. My grandmother advised my mother to let me go. To not try to save me because it was not worth the trouble. … Looking back, perhaps some of my friends in the British media might have agreed wholeheartedly with my grandmother."