FIFA: Whole truth must come out

Football was a big loser at Zurich last Friday night when Sepp Blatter was elected president of the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) for a fifth term. Blatter has ruled world foot-ball with an iron fist and even a sensational crackdown on his corrupt team by United States and Swiss authorities could not stop the 79-year-old from defeating his lone rival, Prince Ali bin-Hussein of Jordan. Football is no stranger to long-serving, power-hungry individuals at the top. In fact, Blatter is only the eighth FIFA president in 111 years and he has successfully extended the legacy of his predecessor, Joao Havelange, whose 24-year reign was dotted with charges of corruption.

In his speech at the FIFA Congress, Blatter, refusing to quit, sought to deflect criticism directed at him, mainly from the UEFA, the European confederation. He tried to pin the blame on other individuals and firmly stated that he could not monitor them all the time. Having been at the top for 17 long years, it is hard to believe that the former amateur footballer was unaware of what was happening under his nose. According to the US Justice Department, two generations of football officials abused their positions of trust, with bribes amounting to $150 million paid in exchange for television contracts. A separate Swiss probe into how the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded might throw more light on the dark deals that have long been suspected behind these decisions. Amidst all these, Blatter, instead of stepping aside, has remained firm, keeping his faith in the sheer numbers that have helped him stay at the top all these years. The clever administrator exploited the system that allowed him to play vote bank politics, cultivating allies in poorer nations with financial incentives. Even the smallest of footballing nations among FIFA’s 209 members enjoy the same voting rights as the super powers of the sport. Blatter cashed in on this factor, enlarging his catchment area with financial incentives in the name of development.

The US probe is just the tip of the iceberg and more revelations could come in the coming days, especially with regard to the next two World Cups, in Russia and Qatar respectively. Blatter might have expressed a desire for reform but that opportunity passed him by long ago. Indeed, transparency in FIFA is possible only without the presence of Blatter who has presided over an empire with corruption as its calling card. The sooner he pays heed to the call, the better it would be for the game, worldwide. Along with this, there is a need for the whole truth to be revealed in the corruption scandal.

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