- 01 июня 2011, 23:47
Loyalists mounted attacks on English press, parliamentarians and politicians before celebrating new mandate
Sepp Blatter rode a crashing wave of anti-English sentiment within the "football family" to extend his presidency of Fifa for another four years.
Corruption scandals have caused alarm among sponsors, national governments and fans alike, but amid an atmosphere of bridling indignation, world football's governing body threw up the barricades in Zurich. Blatter loyalists mounted attacks on English press, parliamentarians and football politicians before celebrating his new mandate with a standing ovation.
In his acceptance speech, after Blatter had won 186 out of 203 votes in the ballot of Fifa's member associations, he thanked delegates for "your vote and your confidence" and pledged curtly to "put Fifa's ship back on the right course in clear, transparent waters".
An hour later, Blatter revealed that former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger would head the "politicians, celebrities and former footballers" making up the "solution committee" that would address the corruption problems that have shredded Fifa's reputation. Kissinger is a long-term associate of Blatter.
The vote in the uncontested election had taken place only after an attempt by the English Football Association to force a postponement suffered a heavy defeat, by 172 votes to 17. The FA chairman, David Bernstein, said he was exercising his democratic right to propose a measure without which Blatter could not have a "proper, credible mandate".
The FA initiative drew ferocious criticism from Fifa's second-most senior politician, Julio Grondona of Argentina. "We always have attacks from England, mostly with lies and with the support of a journalism which is more busy lying than telling the truth," he said.
Grondona confirmed his message that he would only support England's 2018 World Cup bid if the Falkland Islands were "given back" to Argentina because they "belong to us". He insinuated that Bernstein's measure had been motivated by bitterness at England 2018's failure. "It looks like this country doesn't like it and doesn't show goodwill. Would you please leave the Fifa family alone?"
Moucharafou Anjorin, federation president of Benin, the world's 72nd-ranked team, took the podium to say: "I'm ill at ease that this comes from a country like England with its football standing.
"Some people in Africa take great pleasure from watching English football on the television. This is why I do not understand why we want to create more tensions within Fifa. England should not be conveying this message. England should not divide us."
Joining Anjorin was the Congolese Selemani Omari – his country 122nd in Fifa's rankings – who delivered impassioned rhetoric with a veiled message to the English dissenters and media. "Fifa belongs to 208 associations, not one or another," he said. "We're ill at ease with people who wield unfounded accusations. He who accuses must provide evidence.
"We have no lessons to take. If there is a single candidate also sometimes it is because we are satisfied with the candidate."
In an attack on the English media that he did not seek to conceal, Costakis Koutsokoumnis from Cyprus (89th) said: "Allegations. What a beautiful English word. We must not allow people outside this room to enter Fifa's agenda."
There had been only one name on the ballot papers after the Qatari challenger, Mohamed Bin Hammam, after withdrew in an effort to clear his name amid allegations of vote buying. Bin Hammam and the Fifa vice-president, Jack Warner, have been suspended from the federation. On the platform Warner and Bin Hammam's seats, as well as those of two other members of the ruling executive committee serving similar bans, remained vacant throughout the proceedings.
Although football's political structures showed faith in the man at the helm, there are questions whether the storm has yet abated.
Theo Zwanziger, the chairman of Germany's federation, called for an inquiry into the process that led to Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Zwanziger's words carry the force of a serving Fifa executive committee member after he joined it upon the retirement yesterday of Franz Beckenbauer. However, there were messages of defiance from other of football's senior politicians who bristled at the allegations swirling around Fifa.
"It is enough," said Angel Maria Villar Llona, a former Spanish international who heads Fifa's legal committee. "Let us not be led by these people. They are assaulting us with crimes we've not committed. They assault our freedom."
Before the vote, Blatter spoke of being the "captain of the Fifa ship". He only had to make modest concessions: future World Cups will be selected by the whole Congress instead of the 24-strong executive committee; an internal committee will examine Fifa's corporate governance; and the ethics committee will be strengthened, once again an internal process.
But his message of triumph was more one of congratulation for delegates' defensiveness. "I am happy we are able again today to bring this solidarity and unity which allows us sufficient courage and also a positive standpoint," Blatter said. "Something marvellous has happened today in this solidarity."