The BBC on Monday published an interview between outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter and correspondent Richard Conway. You can see the full 22-minute Q&A here, or continue reading for selected highlights and analysis from Off The Post.
We’ll start by going over the wide-ranging territory that Conway covers in his questioning. He asks Blatter to talk about the ongoing FIFA scandal, which includes separate investigations in the USA and Switzerland into widespread corruption at the organization, and which has included 14 indictments in the USA so far, as well as a second Swiss-lead investigation into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar, which many people think were, frankly, bought, but there is as yet no concrete proof.
Conway also asks Blatter to touch on the controversial bidding process for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa now that disgraced former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, who is an FBI informant, has pled guilty to accepting bribes prior to the awarding of that tournament. Finally, the BBC reporter asks the 79-year-old, who was elected to a fifth term in May before stepping down less than a week later, whether UEFA President Michel Platini would make a suitable successor once Blatter steps down in February.
Well, this should be fun. Let’s start with Blatter’s own words.
On his decision to step down as FIFA President: “I did it because I wanted to protect FIFA. I can protect myself. I am strong enough. I know what I have done, what I have not done, I have my conscience and I know I'm an honest man. I am clean.”
On whether corruption is part of FIFA’s culture: “But that's not true. That's not true. This has been created. The institution is not corrupt, there is no corruption in football. There is corruption with individuals, there is not a general organized corruption. No, it is with people. The institution FIFA is not corrupt. People they are in FIFA, or they serve in FIFA, they may be.”
On whether the corruption inside FIFA is deep-rooted, systemic and impossible to fix: “We have started with our reforms in 2011. It's not the institution. That's why I can't understand when the media, the world media, say FIFA is corrupt.”
On whether he as president should have exposed the behavior of his colleagues or at least be held accountable for their actions: 'The problem with FIFA is the composition of the executive committee. The executive committee is not elected by the same entity as the president so I have a government who have not been elected by the same entity and therefore this government is coming by election through the confederations. So now I have to take people, they're not my people. And I shall be morally responsible for them? I cannot be. I can only put some hurdles so that it shall not be repeated. I cannot take the moral responsibility for the behavior of people.'
On the 2010 World Cup in South Africa: “the cleanest World Cup that had ever been done.”
On why there are different opinions of Blatter and FIFA in Asia and Africa: "I'm at least respected because I and FIFA have done a lot.”
To be sure, if you watch the full interview, there are lots of awkward and uncomfortable moments. However, for the most part, for anyone who has followed the FIFA scandal and its subsequent fallout, Blatter’s words pretty much speak for themselves.
But then again, so do the words of those who support him: in a report published Monday, Francois Carrard, the man charged with overseeing the so-called FIFA reform committee that is made up of mostly—surprise!— FIFA execs, launches a ringing defense of the 79-year-old Soccer Czar, calling the world’s treatment of him “unfair,” among other things. In other words, we should expect some big-time reforms from his committee, right?
In his article about Carrard’s comments, Deadspin’s always-funny Bill Haisley sums up the position Blatter now finds himself in really well: “Yep, the head of a notoriously corrupt organization had no idea how his organization actually ran. The man who created the system of small-country empowerment which facilitated the conditions for mass bribery couldn’t possibly be responsible for the culture that inevitably sprang from that. Nothing to see here, just a handful of bad apples poisoning all the great work Blatter has done over the years.”Indeed, this is how FIFA and Blatter operate, and they’ve been doing this for a long, long time -- so long, in fact, that the Swiss probably believes the things he says. It’s sad, and it’s hard to see how any of this is going to change, even with a new president, unless the organization is somehow forced to disband. If that happens, whoever oversees that process will have nightmare of a project on their hands.