FIFA president Sepp Blatter's secret passion

Football and Jumping in Zurich
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Story highlights

  • FIFA president Sepp Blatter reveals his passion for horses
  • Blatter was around horses as a child and during his time in the Swiss army
  • The 78-year-old was a guest at CSI Zurich horse show last week
But forget felines -- it's equine beasts that really stir the emotions of the head of world football's governing body, Sepp Blatter.
FIFA president since 1998 and bidding for a fifth term in the post, horses have always played a big part in the 78-year-old's life.
    "When I was a young boy in my home city of Visp, which is a very small village, our neighbors, our uncles and especially my godfather had a horse," Blatter told CNN Equestrian, reflecting on his Swiss childhood.
    "And the horse for me was always very attractive," he added. "I was also in the Swiss Army as a high-level officer, I was a commander of a regiment -- definitely [there] you have contact with horses."
    Blatter, who has been involved with FIFA since 1975, was recently a special guest at the CSI Zurich horse show.
    It's an event the Swiss has always made room for in his diary despite the challenge of running football's world governing body.
    "This is what we like in football -- connecting people," Blatter said, comparing the world of equestrian and football. "And you have seen the public, the public is happy with that. Because it's the big presentation, they listen, they listen.
    "And here [at the horse show] they go, it's like football. It's like a football game. And I like that."
    FIFA even sponsors a spin-off event at the CSI Zurich show, involving parents and children competing together as a team in horse jumping and with a ball at their feet.
    "Sepp Blatter is a good friend of us," said CSI Zurich co-president Rolf Theiler.
    "I remember 15 years ago, it was the first time he was at the horse show and he saw the spectators, he saw the horses and said, 'FIFA must be a sponsor at the horse show.'
    "I said, 'Sepp is that possible?' and he said, 'I will do sponsoring at the horse show with FIFA.' It's fantastic."
    The FIFA chief added: "It's a family prize and this is wonderful. It's not about who's the best, but the best combination."
    He might have a special place in his heart for horses, but Blatter admits to having always preferred to admire them from afar rather than jump on board one.
    "The horse for me was always very attractive," he said. "But I have to say for the benefit of the horses, they didn't like me so much."