The name Sepp Blatter commands very little respect with the average football fan, and opinion of the FIFA supremo only seems to be sinking. For his blinkered stance on goal-line technology, allegations of corruption within the upper echelons of the administration, recent suggestions that racism on the football pitch should be settled with a handshake and general reluctance to modernise the game, the now 75-year-old FIFA president has been widely criticised by fans and football associations alike.
Despite being the president of world football, Blatter is no stranger to slip-ups and gaffes in various interviews during his tenure at the pinnacle of the football administration. In 2004, he suggested that women wear ‘tighter shorts’ in order to increase the popularity of the women’s game.
And during the media flurry surrounding John Terry’s well-publicised alleged affair (with then-teammate Wayne Bridge’s partner, a scandal that resulted in the Chelsea man being stripped of the England captaincy), Blatter suggested that Terry would be ‘applauded’ in Latin American countries.
Blatter’s most recent head-in-hands moment has sparked outrage, and a subsequent feverish apology from the man himself in defence of his ‘misunderstood’ comments. Asked whether he thought racism in world football was a problem, the Swiss told CNN:
“There is no racism [on the field], but maybe there is a word or gesture that is not correct … the one affected by this should say this is a game and shake hands.”
His comments provoked immediate reaction, with prominent figures in English football taking to the airwaves to criticise the FIFA chief’s comments. Words such as ‘shocked’, ‘dismayed’ and ‘astonished’ were bandied about in the media by the likes of Rio Ferdinand and former Spurs striker Garth Crooks. Even England golden boy David Beckham was quick to denounce Blatter’s stance. All this during the eagerly-awaited verdict of the incident of alleged racist comments made by Liverpool forward Luis Suarez to Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, in which the Uruguayan was found guilty and charged for misconduct by The FA.
Despite apologies for his most recent show of relative ignorance, surely there are only so many times that one of the most influential individuals on the world stage can justify himself to the footballing world. With Michel Platini waiting in the wings, FIFA are not exactly in a situation where they are unable to replace Blatter if they chose to remove him from his presidency, but the nature of the organisation seems to suggest that this is highly unlikely, albeit less so than Blatter choosing to step down of his own accord.
As head of an international and charitable administration with more member states than the United Nations, maybe it’s time for Blatter to hang up his boots, and make way for a newer generation. There seems to be life in the old dog yet, however, and we can see the infamous Sepp spearheading FIFA for a few years yet.