Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
Read earlier columns
Catching up with the Big Man and his Protégé
An event arguably as important to the world game as
this summer's long awaited tournament is going to take
place in Zurich this Thursday. Sepp Blatter is going
to face FIFA's Executive Committee to answer charges
of corruption and financial mismanagement. At stake
is the future of the game for the next twenty years,
and also the legacy of Joao Havelange - all the
decisions and back room deals that have turned a
sixteen team football competition into the planet's
biggest sporting, social, cultural and political event
will be on trial.
Blatter will be fighting for his political life. He
is accused of allowing such financial mismanagement
that FIFA (with access to billions of dollars worth of
television and sponsorship money) has overspent so
much that its much heralded 'World Club Championship'
is in its death throes after only one edition, and
that it is already spending money based on expected
revenues from the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. Worse
though, the events of June 1998 are catching up with
him once more. The allegations that he bought the
FIFA presidency would just not go away, and now with
Somalian delegates claiming that they were bribed to
vote for him, the heat is very much being turned up.
All of a sudden Blatter's much expected second term as
FIFA president looks in danger. He is losing
confidence so fast in fact that by the time we reach
Korea on May 31 he might not even be president
The implications for this are huge, and utterly
misunderstood by football fans at large. For the
first time since 1974 when Havelange, Horst Dassler
and Patrick Nally wrested control of FIFA from Sir
Stanley Rous and his European bureaucrats, we could be
on the verge of seeing control of the most important
body in sport shift. And with this shift the whole
future of the tournament could be radically
redirected, with Asia and Africa taking control of
The situation is actually quite clear. If Blatter
blusters through and deflects these latest
allegations, he will go onto the FIFA congress in
Korea stronger and probably more in charge than ever.
The Havelange legacy will be safe and will go on,
possibly not with Blatter for much longer, but instead
with the likes of Michael Zen-Ruffinen and Michel
Platini increasingly to the fore. However if Blatter
is discredited and cannot wriggle free then a new
UEFA-CAF-AFC axis will take over at the top, committed
(at least in part) to a more democratic structure,
with a more equal distribution of FIFA income and
World Cup places among the different confederations.
This is something worth thinking about. By the time
Senegal and France start the World Cup we could have
Africa or Asia in charge of FIFA for the first time.
And with that the case a story of sleaze, corruption,
bullying and thirst for power that started in Brazil
over thirty years ago will be over.
Blatter was ordained in Paris four years ago as
Havelange's chosen successor. He emerged from behind
the Brazilian's shadow slowly, over the space of
nearly twenty years. Originally, Blatter came to FIFA
from Swiss Timing-Longines in 1975, and became General
Secretary in November 1981 when Havelange sacked
Helmut Kaser - a man who simply refused to work with
the money-mad regime.
Blatter learned his trade at Adidas however, directly
underneath Horst Dassler, who together with Patrick
Nally coaxed Coca Cola, Gillette, Seiko and all the
other original transnational sponsors into the FIFA
fold. Blatter was an administrator, someone born to
organise. His role was to arrange Havelange's travel
plans, and to make sure his boss was always able to
see the correct President or Prime Minister when he
arrived in a new country. In other words Blatter did
the unglamorous, behind the scenes work that Havelange
thought was beneath the president of FIFA. And he
also helped to distribute the travel expenses and
gifts so lavishly dealt out by FIFA to any useful
To most eyes Blatter was the face of FIFA - he made
the draws and gave the interviews before and during
the World Cup. He was the friendly face that made
sure all the different coloured balls went into the
correct drums, and that the South American or African
teams were kept apart during the oh-so complicated
draws, or spoke to camera whenever Havelange made a
pronouncement. He was a mouthpiece, a PR man. And he
was also utterly involved in all the bribes,
corruption, pay-offs and 'special gifts' that so
characterise the Havelange-Blatter management style.
Indeed this started even before Havelange took control
of FIFA. From 1969 to 1973 Dr Joao travelled the
world, calling on every sporting or political official
he felt could help him replace Stanley Rous.
Rous, of course, was utterly oblivious to any of this.
He thought that he had done enough to happily carry
on for at least four more years to 1978, when another
pair of safe European hands (like Artemio Franchi or
Hermann Neuberger) would take over. Today many
commentators look back on the Rous days as FIFA's
golden age - the days of Pele and Puskas, Di Stefano
and Yashin, Beckenbauer and Moore, when matches were
hard fought but honourable and politics were kept out
of sport. This though misses the point that the World
Cup was a South American and European closed shop,
were entry to developing nations was available only
after the most torturous process. This led to a
sustained campaign against Rous in Africa and Asia,
which was first evidenced by the African boycott of
1966. Worse still, Rous championed the rights of
Apartheid ridden South Africa throughout the 1960s and
right up to his final days in 1973. He was blind to
the obvious racism and discrimination that was
destroying South Africa, and refused to even consider
a sporting boycott as a means to overthrow the
insidious regime. And as this cost him any hope of
African and Asian votes, he similarly threw away the
Soviet-bloc vote (and therefore half of Europe) by
ignoring the protests of the Soviet Union who were
ordered to play Chile in a qualifier in the same
ground where political prisoners were tortured - in
full view of a FIFA observation team, who had been in
Chile at the time.
All the time Havelange was courting these votes,
promising new tournaments and extra places at future
finals - and spending the equivalent of $5 million in
the process. Whole continents were lobbied to vote
for him by specially chosen 'influential men', all of
who received lavish 'travel expenses' for their
trouble. And Havelange duly became FIFA president.
The first tournament of the Havelange-Blatter years
was held in 1978, in military controlled Argentina,
where the widespread use of torture was part of
everyday life. Instead of taking the tournament off
Argentina (as Amnesty International and many European
players had begged) Havelange happily let the military
take full charge, under General Omar Actis.
Actis was an unusual member of the junta - he seemed
worried about keeping costs under control and planned
to speak out against a FIFA sponsored plan to build a
new stadium at Mar del Plata and install a new colour
television system in Argentina. This FIFA wanted so
that all the Coca Cola and Gillette adverts would look
good on European televisions - how could such a modern
game be seen in black and white? Actis died -
murdered - before he could give his speech. His death
was blamed on the Montoneros rebels, thirty of whose
supporters were found mutilated in a Buenos Aires
suburb the next day, yet no substantiated link was
ever found. Indeed, the junta were more than happy to
have rid of him. Quickly forgotten, he was replaced
by Captain (and soon to be Admiral) Carlos Lacoste, a
minor FIFA official. He was much more in tune with
junta (and FIFA) policy, and promptly spent $700
million. This insane amount was more than was spent
in 1982, when 8 more teams were present and the Camp
Nou and Bernabeu were almost wholly refitted.
So how was so much money spent? Well first, the new
colour television system was installed at incredible
cost, although in the end only Europeans and
Argentineans in press centres actually saw these
pictures - the rest made do with cheap, black and
white images. Second, Mar del Plata stadium was built
(ignoring the fact that Boca Juniors' huge La
Bombonera ground sat unused) and watered with seawater
- which promptly killed the expensive grass - and all
the other stadiums were refitted at any cost. Next,
Lacoste had to pay out millions of dollars worth of
bribes and pay-offs to keep all the generals and
admirals happy. As Omar Actis and the hundreds of
thousands of other victims had found out, make enemies
of the junta at your peril. Finally there was the
small matter of bribing an entire country, Peru, to
make sure that Argentina and not Brazil reached the
final. This was a huge bribe. First, at least 35 000
tonnes of grain were sent from Argentina to Peru, then
$50 million of bank credit was 'loaned' to the
Peruvian junta - much of which ended up in the bank
accounts of Peru's top generals and admirals.
Finally, specially selected members of the Peru team
were given gifts of $20 000 each. They duly lost the
game 6:0, and Brazil went out on goal difference.
Following the finals, Admiral Lacoste was promoted
rapidly within FIFA and became one of Havelange's most
trusted officials and confidantes. In 1978 Havelange
had embraced the generals following Argentina's
victory in the final, and then proclaimed that 'the
true face of Argentina could be seen'. He would not
forget what Lacoste and his friends had done for him
By 1984, the junta had fallen and Lacoste was accused
of war crimes, specifically implicated in the murder
of Omar Actis. Havelange defended him to the hilt,
refusing to remove him from his FIFA post.
Eventually, under increasing pressure from the new,
civilian Argentine government, Lacoste resigned, but
not before two major financial irregularities came to
light. First, it emerged that Havelange had loaned
Lacoste millions of dollars to purchase land in
Uruguay. Lacoste claimed he got the money from 'a
bank'. Secondly, it became clear that up to 25% of
the insurance policies for Argentina 78 had been
provided by Havelange's own insurance company, and
that Lacoste had been instrumental in awarding them.
Havelange and his new General Secretary Joseph Blatter
blamed all this on Helmut Kaser.
The period between 1978 and 1994 saw Havelange
dominate the sporting world, getting his friend Juan
Antonio Samaranch elected president of the IOC, and
was also a time of massive spending. FIFA rebuilt its
own office complex in Zurich at massive expense, while
Havelange (who boasted of never being paid by FIFA)
claimed millions of dollars worth of 'expenses' each
year. In 1982 Havelange decided that Colombia (chosen
in 1974 in the last days of Rous) should no longer
host the 1986 World Cup. Another of the FIFA vice
presidents (and personal friends of Havelange) was
Guillermo Canedo of Televisa, the Mexican television
conglomerate. Together they arranged for Mexico to
take over the hosting of the 1986 finals, and utterly
ignored the USA's bid. Money talks.
All the time Blatter was watching, and learning. He
moved up the FIFA hierarchy seamlessly, joining
committee after committee and becoming second only to
Havelange himself. One of his main tasks was helping
his boss pay-off some old debts and create some new
opportunities by helping Samaranch get the 1992 Summer
Olympics for his home city of Barcelona instead of
Paris. To do this, Havelange lobbied IOC delegates
against Paris, while supporting a bid for the 1992
Winter Olympics to go to Albertville, also in France.
Unwritten IOC rules said that no country could host
both versions of the Olympics at the same time, thus
by giving France the smaller prize he could help
Samaranch and Barcelona. Unsurprisingly, this is
exactly what happened. Again millions of dollars
worth of travel expenses were claimed, and gifts
It was also during this period Havelange was nominated
for the Nobel Peace Prize - by the Swiss football
association! Coincidentally, Switzerland was bidding
for the 1998 World Cup. France won that competition,
not long after Havelange had lost out in the Nobel
Prize. Now what would have happened if he had won the
prize is anyone's guess. However, the odds on France
winning the 1998 World Cup would have been
So by 1994, Havelange was seemingly in a position of
total power. After conquering the USA he turned his
attentions to his final flourish, a thirty-two-team
tournament in France and then his final tournament in
Japan. But this was not to be. Havelange misread the
political situation as badly as Rous did in the 1960s.
First his all out support of Japan was so obviously
motivated by money that even he could not disguise his
activities. As South Korea made ground in Europe,
Havelange and Blatter tried to force Africa, Asia and
the Americas to vote for Japan. However, Japan had no
football culture, had never played in the finals, and
did not even have a domestic league. They did however
have JVC, Seiko and Dentsu (FIFA's favourite
advertising agency) and Havelange always repaid
favours. So he rubbished Korea at every opportunity
and promoted Japan. Realising Africa had won him a
vote before he set off to attract support by visiting
another military regime, this time in Nigeria. Times
had changed since 1978 though - shaking hands with
military dictators, especially as they were executing
human rights activists, was no longer considered a
good political move.
Blatter saw his chance. He travelled to a UEFA
meeting and in a private meeting promised to help
remove Havelange if he could become the new FIFA
President. He told the meeting how he could produce
evidence of corruption and illegal activity, and how
he was desperate to give UEFA control again.
Unfortunately he failed to realise how badly he came
over by this. Why would UEFA or anyone want to
support Blatter if he was only now bringing to light
evidence of wrongdoing that he must have seen
happening years before? When he got outside the
closed meeting he told the press UEFA had begged him
to stand against Havelange, and how he said no. Soon
after Havelange announced his retirement - albeit with
'honour' intact at the end of long reign.
Havelange would have been expected to turn on Blatter
now, but instead after a period of reflection decided
that he knew too much for that. If Blatter fell, so
would Havelange. There would be awkward questions and
investigations if UEFA got control. Havelange still
needed Blatter. So he set out to get him elected. It
was 1973 all over again.
Havelange and Blatter hit Africa, and called in a few
favours. Standing against Blatter was Lennart
Johansson of UEFA, and he ran a campaign calling for
transparency and democracy. He was up against too
smooth an operator in Havelange though. With most of
Africa falling into line, Havelange and Blatter called
on their Asian contacts, in particular several
oil-rich Middle Eastern millionaires.
The election was held at the 1998 Paris Congress. Hot
favourite Johansson was defeated 111 votes to 80 in
only one round. Even Havelange had needed two in
1974. As Johansson went off to work out how he had
lost, stories of a mystery man, and two million
dollars in brown envelopes, came out. Johansson
delegates suggested that these charges would be
investigated in good time, but first they would see
how several European votes (such as the British) had
changed to Blatter late on. This was another piece of
classic Havelange real politick - when he visited Tony
Blair in 1997 he had promised the 2006 World Cup to
England, in return for a favour when needed. He did
exactly the same thing when he met Thabo Mbeki and
Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Both voted for
Blatter. Neither got the World Cup.
The allegations of vote buying did not go away, but
with no one willing to go on the record they remained
unsubstantiated. Then Blatter hit his own financial
scandal once the first World Club Championship (one of
Havelange's long term projects) made such a loss that
the ISL marketing money was overspent many times over.
ISL collapsed leaving FIFA without its marketing
partner months before the most heavily marketed World
Cup in its history got under way. Questions started
to be asked how an organisation like FIFA that boasts
that football makes $400 billion per year could not
balance its books. People started to go back into the
old records, and questioned the culture of expenses.
Blatter was on the ropes, but not yet out. He was a
new President; it was too soon for him to sweep the
He seemed to get away with it. The questions still
came, but they didn't make the papers anymore. And in
any case, UEFA was not ready to mount a challenge yet,
they would bide their time and wait. Michel Platini
got more airtime, as did Michael Zen-Ruffinen - fresh,
untainted faces. Blatter and the Havelange legacy
looked like riding the storm. Until the Somalian
delegates from 1998 said publicly that they had been
bribed to vote for Blatter. They were willing to give
statements. Blatter was in big trouble. Only UEFA
can save Blatter and Havelange now.
Issa Hayatou of CAF and Chung Mong Joon of the Korean
FA are ready to challenge Blatter in June, deciding
soon just who will run for president. They are both
serious contenders, being able to count on a huge
block vote. But are they acceptable to UEFA? Does
UEFA want to cede power to Asia and Africa, or is it
ready to go into partnership with them to create a
powerful axis of shared power? UEFA has troubles of
its own without having to take on Asia and Africa
wanting more and more say, and more and more TV money.
UEFA has been engaged in this situation in Europe
already with the G14 clubs, an increasingly powerful
block that can tell UEFA what to do, and has already
forced it into expanding the Champions League and
siphoning off more money to the top clubs. Will it
now let an Asian or African FIFA President be in
charge of a main part of its revenue? Or will they
stay with Blatter for another four years while they
groom a successor?
Will it be a case of the better the devil you know
than the devil you don't? We will know sometime after
6pm on Thursday.
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