World Cup 2018: England’s ‘sore losers’ get a right Blattering
Fifa president Sepp Blatter has responded to the torrent of criticism directed at his organisation in the wake of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host announcements by calling England "bad losers" and denying that there is any corruption within football’s governing body.
The 74-year-old gave an interview to a Swiss magazine in which he said that the English bid should not complain about being let down by Fifa executive committee (ExCo) members who promised them their vote for the 2018 race but failed to deliver.
He played his stock defence of Fifa’s extraordinary decision to give the 2022 tournament to Qatar: that complaints about the decision were a corollary of the complacency of a western world with a sense of entitlement.
In the immediate aftermath of England’s humiliating first-round exit in voting, a week ago today, neither Blatter nor the current 22 members of the ExCo made themselves available to explain their decision to the media.
"To be honest, I was surprised by all the English complaining after the defeat. England, of all people, the motherland of fair-play ideas," Blatter told Die Weltwoche magazine.
"Now some of them are showing themselves to be bad losers. You can’t come afterwards and say, ‘so and so promised to vote for England’. The results are known. The outcome came out clearly.
"I really sense in some reactions a bit of the arrogance of the western world of Christian background.
“Some simply can’t bear it if others get a chance for a change.
“What can be wrong if we start football in regions where this sport demonstrates a potential which goes far beyond sport?
"It’s my philosophy to drive forward the expansion of football. The next regions that we need to conquer would be China and India. Football has become a political matter.
“Heads of state court me. Football has become a monster, but it’s a positive monster."
The response of the England 2018 bid — which lost out ultimately to Russia — has been that if it was always Fifa’s intention to take the tournament to new frontiers then they should have warned the likes of England and the United States not to bother bidding and pouring such great resources into the process.
Blatter’s new world argument does not stack up when it comes to Australia which represented a new continent in terms of World Cup finals hosting but garnered just one vote and exited in the first round of the 2022 vote.
For all the grandstanding, Blatter did hint at a recognition that Fifa had to change. He said he would establish a taskforce to look into the issues raised by the last few days.
"We can’t go on like this. We need to improve our image," he said. "We also need to set some things straight inside Fifa." He was not clear in which way. The full text of the interview will be released today.
Under pressure to prove that Fifa is a transparent, lawful organisation, Blatter offered no more than the usual set of denials.
He said: "I will say it clearly, there is no systematic corruption in Fifa. That is nonsense. We are financially clean and clear."
He added: "Nobody can come along and simply hold out their hand. There are no rotten eggs."
There was also the standard defence of the allegations of bribe-taking that emerged from the collapse of Fifa’s marketing partner ISL in 2001.
Citing the case of Issa Hayatou, the African football federation president who was targeted by the BBC’s Panorama investigation but was still the only foreign ExCo to vote for England, Blatter said: "He was portrayed as a criminal by the media, because his federation supposedly took $25,000.
“Well, I can tell you this: Hayatou is the son of a sultan and he hasn’t done anything wrong."
Blatter said that he would not still be Fifa president in 2022 when he will be 82.
"If God wills it, I will be invited to the opening party on crutches or in a wheelchair," he said.
However, the septugenarian looks likely to win next year’s presidential elections for a fifth consecutive time.