Like the heads of most international crime syndicates, Sepp Blatter must be a genius in the ways of manipulation and leveraging power.
Because … seriously? He was voted president of FIFA for a fifth term on Friday despite overseeing the largest scandal in the history of the world governing body of soccer.
He received 113 votes of FIFA congress members to retain his presidency despite showing no contrition or accountability for the organization’s compounding indictments for corruption, bribery, racketeering and fraud over the span of decades.
How? Either Blatter has dirt on every one of those 133 members who voted for him, or those 133 are so delighted with the way they benefit from a crooked organization, they shamelessly acknowledge their desire to continue to be a part of it.
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The cost to the organization of this misguided loyalty to the crooked commandant? Sponsors are jumping ship with millions of dollars.
Blatter largely thumbed his nose at the scandal, at the media, and at his challengers.
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan picked up 73 votes, enough to force a second ballot, but he conceded given the awareness that the second round of voting required only a simple majority, and Blatter’s support was well above that.
Prince Ali made a campaign speech to the gathering Friday morning. It was logical and impassioned, addressing the problems of the FIFA administration, and promising a much-needed new direction.
It was time, Prince Ali said, that FIFA “reverse the pyramid” and put the fans and the players at the top of FIFA’s concerns, and become the “service organization” it was supposed to be.
He argued for democratic operation that is fully transparent in its finances and decisions, and also exhibited concern for global human rights. He gave his word that he would “honor the game.”
FIFA, he said, was “hungry for the world’s respect.”
Sorry, Prince, you got voted down because you misunderstood the hunger: FIFA remains hungry for kickbacks and bribes and corruption.
Change was there if they wanted it. As easy as placing a vote. But the majority wanted no part of ousting the corrupt political machinery.
Or else the majority suspected that if Blatter was going down, he’d take a lot of them down with him.
What can be done now? Now that this body can’t be trusted to govern itself. Are the ways so deeply institutionalized they can’t be undone?
Maybe not. Maybe continued indictments will pare down the bodies in Blatter’s constituency. The ongoing investigation this week led to 14 indictments and seven arrests, two of whom were Blatter’s vice presidents.
Still, the 79-year-old Blatter had his invulnerability reinforced by the election, and he gloated in the slimy aftermath.
“You see I’m in good mood … I admit … I am now president of everybody … voilà,” he said.
Well, not quite everybody, just national federations in 209 countries, with a reported financial reserve of $1.4 billion.
Blatter tossed bouquets to his cronies after the election.
“I congratulate you for your discipline, respect and fair play,” he said without a hint of irony.
He summed his remarks with: “… it’s important, this game, but more important … enjoy life.”
Yes, those benefiting from the corrupt conduct were implored by their leader to go out and enjoy life. Might as well because they might soon be served with subpoenas.
Blatter was right about one thing, the game is important. Loved by billions around the world.
And it deserves better than it’s getting under Blatter.