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
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The dirty war
Something very dirty is going on at the very heart of
football. FIFA - the game's governing body and
worldwide judge, jury and executioner - has erupted
into open warfare. On one side stand the current
president, Sepp Blatter and his acolytes (primarily
Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner of CONCACAF). Massed
against them stand Issa Hayatou of CAF (the only
official candidate standing against Blatter at the
Seoul congress on May 29), Lennart Johansson of UEFA,
Dr Mong-Joon Chung of the AFC and Michel Zen-Ruffinen,
the General-Secretary of FIFA.
What is at stake is control of a worldwide business
currently worth billions of dollars with seemingly
unlimited potential for expansion. It is in
partnership with Coca Cola, the biggest brand and soft
drink in the world. The biggest and most influential
car, electronic and food manufacturers on the planet
court it. It is fought over by adidas and Nike - it
is football in the 21st century, and it is being
Blatter has been a troubled president almost since he
took office in 1998. As I documented in a previous
column - "Catching up with the Big Man and his Protégé" - he
has been tainted by his relationship with Joáo
Havelange, the previous incumbent in FIFA House.
Havelange was constantly accused of corruption and
financial irregularities but resisted any attempt at
investigation, such was his iron grip on the
organisation. Blatter ran in to trouble within weeks.
Stories abounded that he had 'bribed' his way to
election - 'evidence' was gathered that accused
Arabian princes of delivering hundreds of thousands of
dollars to delegates with votes on the eve of the
vote. But Blatter fought them off - or at least
pushed them out of the spotlight.
Defeated candidate Lennart Johansson attempted to look
humble and ignored the claims. Instead he went after
the European delegates who had voted against him, and
watched happily as men like Graham Kelly and Keith
Wiseman of the English FA were loudly discredited for
corruption. Coincidentally, they had been
instrumental in splitting the European vote away from
But Johansson himself was tainted. He was then (and
very much still is today) involved in a campaign of
painting himself as a whiter than white, sleaze-free
'humanitarian', who desperately wanted the top job at
FIFA to ensure 'democracy and transparency'. This
does not wash however.
Johansson was exposed (in great publicity) in the
early 1990s as someone who used racist language
openly, and with little shame. He attended a CAF
congress in the early days of his UEFA tenure and was
recorded using the type of language some uneducated
scumbag in the Klu-Klux-Klan or Front Nationalé would
happily espouse. It warrants no repetition here, but
suffice to say the quotes were enough to cast doubt on
his suitability for a post of international
responsibility. Seeds of suspicion were planted in
enough influential minds to make his candidature
weaker than it should have been - especially when his
already dour reputation and demeanour were added to
the package he was offering.
He realised quickly after the 1998 election that even
Blatter could not have bribed his way to a 111-80
vote. 10 or 15 votes could have been 'bought' (if the
accusations are to be believed that alone would have
cost the un-named Prince well over $1.5 million) but
anymore would have been too noticeable and has to be
regarded as unlikely. So there has to be some other
reason why this man who regarded himself as odds-on to
beat Blatter lost. And as Johansson knew only too
well, his none too pleasant past still counted against
So he went quiet, and engaged Blatter in détente -
both men 'pledged' to work with each other and
'agreed' that Blatter would be able to run unopposed
in 2002. Then ISL and Kirch super-imploded leaving
debts of billions of dollars and FIFA's marketing and
television rights strategies in tatters. Huge holes
appeared in FIFA's bank account over night; the first
casualty was Blatter's much vaunted Club World
Championship that managed one competition in Brazil
and then collapsed into recrimination and accusation.
FIFA was at least $30 million in debt, maybe more - a
Blatter had previously been FIFA General-Secretary and
had been promoted to the top job to help Joáo
Havelange out of his own financial troubles. Then Dr
Helmut Kaser, Blatter's predecessor as
General-Secretary, had been sacked because he refused
to allow Havelange's murky dealings in the aftermath
of the totally corrupt Argentinian World Cup in 1978.
And Blatter duly did his job, massaging the deals,
taking control of the potentially troublesome
committees that ran FIFA's bureaucracy and organising
the regal court that Havelange demanded accompany him
at all times.
Blatter was so inextricably linked to Havelange that
even when the Brazilian finally ran out of friends and
lost control of the committees and even after Blatter
had stabbed him in the back, Havelange still stood by
him. It was a reluctant backing, but it was backing
nonetheless. And once Havelange had worked his
'magic', Blatter had an easy path to election.
So up stepped Michel Zen-Ruffinen as the new
General-Secretary. Zen-Ruffinen was a lifelong
bureaucrat, much like Blatter. A former football
referee, Zen-Ruffinen joined FIFA in 1986 and worked
his way up to become Blatter's deputy in the mid
1990s. Zen-Ruffinen is married, and has three
children. He is also young - just 43 - and stands as
a beacon for the next generation of football ruler
that includes Michel Platini and Adam Crosier.
Coincidentally (or perhaps by design) Zen-Ruffinen is
from the same Swiss canton as Blatter, and shared many
of the characteristics of his boss: loyalty,
organisation, intelligence and confidentiality. And
at first he happily played along.
Zen-Ruffinen replaced Blatter seamlessly, taking over
the running of the committees and even replaced him in
front of the cameras, conducting the lavish draws for
the youth championships and World Cup. Everything
seemed to be going well - Blatter had his problems and
could not appear on TV to justify himself as he had
once done for Havelange, so Zen-Ruffinen did it for
him. He even brought humour to the World Cup Finals
draw; the world seemed to be his oyster.
Around this time things started to go badly wrong for
Blatter. Johansson had long since rescinded the
'agreement' that Blatter should run unopposed in 2002.
He knew he could not beat Blatter, but if a suitable
proxy candidate willing to play to the UEFA tune could
be found, Johansson made it known he was only too
eager to support them. There were two choices.
First there was Dr Mong-Joon Chung of the AFC and
Korean FA. He had a track record, having destroyed
Havelange's wish to bring the World Cup to Japan (and
Japan only) by running Korea's successful guerrilla
campaign. He had a power base, being able to count on
large swathes of South and Central Asia, as well as a
high proportion of European delegates. He also had a
prestigious industrial career at Hyundai, and the many
millions it brought. In fact he had everything he
could want to take on Blatter - except Johansson and
those final thirty or so votes. The good doctor
scared many at UEFA, especially those who did not pay
even the minimal lip-service Johansson was giving to
his own 'transparency and accountability' agenda.
Would Mong-Joon allow UEFA to maintain its high level
of autonomy and TV income, or would he push for Asia
to get more? The Europeans did not trust this suave
industrialist and his entourage, so they went for the
Issa Hayatou is the president of CAF and has run
Cameroonian football for a long time. He was nowhere
near the competent Mong-Joon in terms of performance
in front of the cameras or ability in regional and
global politics, but he did have a lot of respect
inside football and was an honest, clean candidate.
He was affable, carried a large part of the African
FIFA vote, and seemed ready and willing to stand
against Blatter. And he was also an underrated
political fighter, capable of matching many in the
backrooms of power. But whether he had enough support
to defeat Blatter was another question. That is where
Johansson and Mong-Joon come in. Between them they
carry enough weight to bring in enough votes to push
Hayatou into Blatter's league, but whether they had
enough to win was still too close to call. It was
going to be a close election.
Or was it? Blatter was totally confident of victory,
even brushing off an ad hoc internal finance committee
as a 'welcome step'. He looked to have something up
his sleeve, something in reserve. Pelé came out in
support of a man who once helped Havelange keep Pelé
ostracised and out of the FIFA spotlight. Ignoring
those dark days Pelé now praised Blatter as a man who
had brought democracy to FIFA, and went on to eulogise
the GOAL development programme that Blatter attached
himself to after his election. He finished with a
call to all who would listen. 'It is crucial for
world football,' he said 'that Blatter continues,
because what he is doing is fantastic'. Endorsements
do not come more ringing than that. All over? Not
Nothing is so simple in FIFA politics. Blatter may
have a lot of support in the football world, but he
has few 'big name' supporters left who are willing to
come out and defend him publicly. He may have Pelé,
but unlike Hayatou no confederation president had so
far come out in favour of him. The only such people
he could rely on totally were Chuck Blazer and Jack
Warner of CONCACAF - and come out in support of him
they did, and then some.
Right at the start of April, just under two months
before the decisive vote, Blazer amazed the football
world when he called for the resignation of
Zen-Ruffinen! Many inside football knew that there
had been some bad blood between the two Swiss
bureaucrats for some time, but why would someone so
close to Blatter call for the resignation of the FIFA
General-Secretary so close to the presidential
election. It was unprecedented in all the annals of
football. Nothing like this had happened all through
the wild Havelange years, so what brought it on now?
Blazer claimed that Zen-Ruffinen had been soliciting
for votes for Hayatou in Central America. He then
went further stating that by activating another FIFA
mechanism to investigate the upcoming CONCACAF
presidential election (I hope your keeping up here!)
Zen-Ruffinen was acting outside his remit, was
interfering in CONCACAF's affairs, and should resign
or be sacked. This all came about because CONCACAF
president Jack Warner had refused to allow former
World Cup Final referee Edgardo Codesal to stand
against him in the CONCACAF vote. Blazer was fuming -
he complained 'this current action by Zen-Ruffinen has
stretched his credibility to the limit.'
Suddenly Zen-Ruffinen was fighting for his political
life. He had been severely criticised by a
confederation, and Blatter was quick to back CONCACAF.
Zen-Ruffinen was ordered to suspend the
investigation, and while Blatter took no action
against him, his long-term future was called into
question. So he hit back, promising legal action
against Blazer and Warner. Then just to make matters
worse, and make the situation totally out of control,
Blatter suspended the financial audit aimed at working
out just how much money FIFA had lost when ISL
Blatter started to make allegations of leaks coming
out of the committee, especially from Mong-Joon. He
said that the audit could only restart once this leak
was stopped, and he made few doubt that that would not
be done until after the presidential election.
Suddenly a potentially harmful report that could force
Blatter to resign his post was removed. And he made
it clear that Zen-Ruffinen would have to take the
blame for all this, after all he was
General-Secretary, and the General-Secretary organised
all these things.
Never in the entire 98 year history of FIFA had
something this divisive ever happened. Havelange may
have sacked Helmut Kaser twenty years before, but at
least it had been done mainly behind closed doors and
had been over and done with by the time the outside
world knew much of it. Blatter had rebuked his deputy
- his powerful deputy - in full view of the watching
media, while at the same time Zen-Ruffinen had been
actively campaigning against Blatter.
And it was no coincidence this was happening now.
Zen-Ruffinen claimed innocence, and said that serious
financial irregularities had only just come to light.
He had not spoken out before because he did not think
anyone senior was involved. But now he changed his
tune fast. He started making very serious allegations
about Warner and Blatter - even Blatter's secretary
got dragged into the sleaze. It was only a matter of
time before the Big Man himself was implicated - Joáo
was accused of fraudulently receiving thousands of
dollars since Blatter took over.
These allegations are extremely serious. Blatter is
alleged to have covered up the extent to which FIFA
(and world football as a whole) lost money when ISL
collapsed. Zen-Ruffinen claimed that more than $300
million was wiped from FIFA bank accounts, and that
Blatter was only able to account for $30 million.
Worse, he alleged that Blatter was regularly paying
off 'associates' for 'advisory' work to the tune of at
least $5000 per month, per advisor. Zen-Ruffinen
claimed no advisory work could be found to account for
it. He then went on to allege that Jack Warner and
his family had benefited from the Blatter regime to
the tune of over $10 million - Warner had had a $9.75
million loan 'written off', while his sons had
received money through the GOAL project and had
received $1 million for 'internet services'.
This level of corruption - if it is corruption - is
unbelievable, and compares in size and implication to
the 'bribe' Argentina paid Peru in 1978 to throw a
decisive World Cup Finals match. Then that continued
to unfold after the World Cup, with Havelange
implicated in a financial scandal that involved
convicted Argentinian war criminal Admiral Carlos
Lacoste - incidentally a FIFA Vice President and good
friend of Big Joáo.
All this in itself would be bad enough for Blatter if
it were not also alleged that he had been paying
people to discredit his enemies in Africa, especially
Hayatou supporters. This all revolves around another
former referee Lucien Bouchardeau and Farah Addo one
of Hayatou's main supporters. Blatter is himself
personally implicated here, and he makes no secret of
the fact that he paid Bouchardeau $25 000. He covers
himself by saying that Bouchardeau was down on his
luck and needed help. And anyway, Blatter confirmed
just what the world must have already been thinking.
"I'm too good a person," he said.
All this time Johansson had been aching for a fight,
sending a 14-point denunciation of the Blatter regime
to every UEFA delegate pleading with them to vote for
Hayatou. Blatter hit back with his own 14-point
rebuttal, and said to anyone who was wiling to listen
that there was a conspiracy to stop him winning the
election. He still thought he was going to win
though, especially as he had been touring poor
countries non-stop since the campaigning had begun,
promising to redistribute qualification places for the
2006 World Cup (primarily at UEFA's expense) and GOAL
development money in almost every stop. He still had
to be thought of as favourite for the election.
Hayatou was just not looking good against him.
Blatter had learnt a lot from Havelange about making
promises and had used his years in front of the camera
to build a charismatic - if weird - profile.
So Johansson, Mong-Joon and Zen-Ruffinen decided to
have criminal charges alleging fraud brought against
Blatter. Just how he can survive this, without the
Big Man and with his political advisors and friends
terrified of being dragged into the mire, is anyone's
guess. But just how football can be in such a state
is bewildering and ludicrous. There is only one
choice - and hope. Hayatou simply must win, to steal
a Blatter phrase, 'for the good of the game'.
But more than this he must root out all the sleaze and
corruption, not just from Blatter and his cronies, but
from UEFA and all the other confederations as well.
All the confederation presidents should be sacked, not
just Blatter. How can Johansson stand up as someone
who believes in 'transparency and honesty' when he was
caught on camera espousing racist claptrap? What
about Zen-Ruffinen? Why did he only release these
allegations once Blatter had abandoned him after
CONCACAF accused him of politicking?
It is a big, polluted mess that could destroy the very
tournament it thrives on and all football fans love.
If Blatter falls - and brings those around him down as
well - then how safe can FIFA itself be? What is to
stop the upcoming tournament collapsing into financial
ruin or a political fiasco? Remember, the World Cup
has been bought before - 1978 - and has been blighted
by big business since 1974, so what is to stop it
being ruined by a rudderless structure this time?
Something needs to be done before it is too late, and
I just hope someone can be found to do it.
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