The unbearable ‘emptiness’ of Sepp Blatter?

CNN —  

Sepp Blatter wants to continue as FIFA president not for the good of football but because he fears the “emptiness” of life away from the sport’s world governing body, Michel Platini has said.

Ahead of Friday’s FIFA presidential election, Platini – the head of European governing body UEFA – gave an interview to L’Equipe newspaper published Monday, where he outlined his opposition to a Blatter fifth term.

“He is simply scared of the future, as he has given his life to the institution, to the point where he now identifies himself fully with FIFA,” Platini said, referring to Blatter.

“I understand the fear of that emptiness that he must have; it’s natural. But if he really loves FIFA, he should have put its interests ahead of his own.”

FIFA told CNN that Blatter had no specific response to Platini’s comments, though the world governing body pointed to an interview with the Swiss Neue Zurcher Zeitung newspaper where he nodded to his likely election victory by comparing himself to a “mountain goat” that “cannot be stopped. I just keep going.”

Platini also said that FIFA would lack credibility with Blatter in charge once more and that the 79-year-old lied to him four years ago when promising that his current fourth term would be his last.

The UEFA chief has decided to back Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan in Friday’s presidential election.

“He (Blatter) asked us face to face to support him for what would be his last mandate,” Platini said. “I have the disagreeable feeling of having proffered my support on the basis of a lie.”

But in the NZZ interview, Blatter explained he had changed his mind – “as everybody is entitled to” – after circumstances changed, a reference to a number of football associations asking him to go on.

Once an ally of Blatter, Platini has increasingly turned against the Swiss.

“While he remains in place, whether he likes it or not, and whether it is fair or not, FIFA will lack credibility and its image will be tarnished, and so it will lack authority. Moreover, it will be football that suffers,” Platini continued.

Despite the bluntness of his comments, Platini said he had no personal animosity towards Blatter but believed that it was the right time for football to move on as he offered his support for Prince Ali.

“I am firmly convinced that Ali, whom I have known on a personal level for years, would make a great FIFA President. He has everything it takes.”

The Jordanian is Blatter’s only opponent in Friday’s election after former Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo and Dutch football chief Michael Van Praag pulled out last week.

Blatter is widely expected to win and extend his 17-year-reign at the top of FIFA as he has the support of five from six of FIFA’s continental regions.

Yet the nature and setup of the campaign has campaign has been heavily criticized.

Figo in particular seemed exasperated with the politicking involved as he announced his withdrawal.

“I have seen with my own eyes federation presidents who, after one day comparing FIFA leaders to the devil, then go on stage and compare those same people with Jesus Christ,” the former World Player of the Year said.

Blatter has been FIFA president since 1998, when he received the backing of Platini, but has been involved in the organization since the mid 1970s.

While Blatter has overseen the first World Cups in Africa and Asia – South Africa in 2010 and Japan and South Korea in 2002 – he has also presided over a decline in the public’s perception of FIFA.

Corruption allegations relating to the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively, have damaged FIFA and by extension Blatter’s credibility.

Blatter himself has also been criticized for a string of gaffes, including suggestions that women should wear “tighter shorts” and that racism could be settled with a handshake.

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