Matthew Monk


 
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 this event.

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The winner takes it all



    In the end it was all too easy for Sepp; it was not even a contest. Winning by 139 votes to 56 is better that the Big Man ever managed, and is an even bigger margin than Blatter beat Johansson by in 1998. Issa Hayatou entered this contest as the anointed candidate, riding a white charger, on top of a clear cloud of transparency, honesty and decency - he has ended it badly beaten and devoid of the support of even his own continent. And what is worse, though Sepp may yet still find himself in a courtroom, his victory was never in doubt.

    Blatter has regained control totally: not only of the top FIFA job, but also the Executive Committee and looks like getting a new General-Secretary for good measure - if he really wants one. Blatter can do more or less anything he wants to Michel Zen-Ruffinen. He could fire him, his obvious political machinations, or he could just as easily keep him around. It is almost as if firing Zen-Ruffinen would be too good for him: Blatter has beaten the conspirators now, so why let them off lightly when you can keep them around and watch them squirm?

    And you get the idea that Blatter is going to do just this, and enjoy it. He has managed to manoeuvre his key lieutenant Michel Platini onto the Executive Committee (tipping the balance in his favour and away from the supposed UEFA-CAF axis), has silenced Zen-Ruffinen, further damaged the credibility of Johansson, and has even managed to blow away the challenge of Hayatou and Chung Mong-Joon before they got started. It is quite a result for the temperamental PR man from Switzerland, and must be another day of rejoicing in the Havelange household as well. The legacy is safe it seems. At least for now.

    If Blatter is an undoubted winner, then how have the other key players come out of this? Even though Hayatou was the official challenger, he was little more than a figurehead, a clean man to take the fight to Blatter. The real power behind the bid came from Lennart Johansson, Chung Mong-Joon and latterly Michel Zen-Ruffinen. And all of these men have clearly lost out, big time.

    For poor old Lennart there is no way back. He has just started another term as UEFA President, but whether he makes it to Portugal in 2004 is another matter. Platini has been talked about in many circles as the next FIFA General-Secretary, but this is really only an administration job - paper pushing and organising meetings. It has never been a political job before, and really there is no base of political power to go along with it. Sure you get invited to all the top meetings, but no General-Secretary is ever elected or makes campaign promises. It's a job where you get your face in front of the cameras once every four years to make the World Cup draw. It doesn't bring a vast expense account or get you invites to the Elysťe Palace. It's the place for a contented second in command - like HelmŁt Kaser - not a political schemer like Platini.

    No Platini is after something bigger. He was always the top man of the teams he played in, both in France and Italy. He was the undisputed star, and would settle for no less. No, for Platini being a mere General-Secretary would not be enough - even if it was at FIFA. Instead he has his sights set higher. Platini wants Johansson's job. And what Platini wants, Platini usually gets.

    This would be perfect for Blatter. With his key ally in charge of his biggest critic, Blatter could set about creating his legacy. He could wipe clean the denigration and accusation, and get to work on making himself popular again. From watching Blatter over a long time, you get the idea that this is what he really wants - to be a popular, avuncular, 'nice guy' figure.

    It is almost like his was the most unpopular kid at school, who hated being picked last for football, but who knew that one day he could make everyone like him - if only he got the chance to show them what he was really like. Sure he hooked up with big, nasty JoŠo, but that doesn't make Sepp a meanie as well. He didn't like him really, all the time he was working for him it was just horrible, and poor little Sepp must have hated every minute of those impersonal five-star hotels and palaces. And as for all the money that passed his way, well that was correctly distributed. Even if some of it did not go through the books properly, Sepp meant it to. He just never got round to writing it down. He never got the chance. Every time he tried Big JoŠo would call for him and ask him to come out to another party or to go and watch another football match. And Sepp just could never say no to JoŠo - not to his face anyway.

    But maybe - just maybe - Blatter isn't going to get his own way about this one. Platini might well want to be the next UEFA President, but that doesn't mean he is going to be it. UEFA is as divided at FIFA, split into warring factions who smile at each other in front of the cameras and bicker like little kids away from it. There are three main camps within UEFA: the pro-Johansson, anti-Blatter group (including Scandinavia, Britain and Italy), the pro-Blatter camp (like France and Germany) and the old Soviet Bloc, who vote more or less together, but who also alternate between the two pro and anti Blatter factions.

    This means that any UEFA election without the once dominant Johansson would be as divisive and hard fought as this summer's FIFA contest. Platini would feel very confident of beating Johansson, an increasingly old, marginalized, failed politician. But if someone else could be found to stand for the anti-Blatter brigade, someone articulate, good looking and young, then Platini would have a big fight on his hands. Who could that be? Step forward another of the week's winners: Adam Crozier, Chief Executive of the Football Association.

    Anyone brave enough to stand up publicly and criticise Blatter as his moment of victory approached was always going to be seen as a potential post-Johansson leader of the anti movement. But if they could combine this with a modern, fresh, business like appearance and outlook, and be articulate and camera friendly as well, then they would have it made. Luckily for Crozier he managed do all this and more.

    Crozier was headhunted by the FA suits when Graham Kelly and Keith Wiseman managed to get caught up in some cheap little bribery scandal involving the Football Association of Wales. For an institution as old and proud as the FA (the oldest of all football's governing bodies) this type of financial scandal was unthinkable. It was vulgar - something becoming of less cultured peoples. Kelly and Wiseman just had to go.

    And so in came the young, suave, Scottish business executive - to run English football. The job he took over from Kelly changed almost overnight. Always an administrative post, the Chief Executive of the FA had always been at the bequest of the myriad committees and executives that still make up the bulk of the organisation. But once Crozier came in, he received much more power. Funded by the burgeoning Premiership, Crozier took executive control of the day to day running of English football, setting its direction and driving it into an even more commercial future. He superseded the venerable International Committee - previously the group of old men who had the right to hire and fire national coaches - and started being photographed with the players. What is more he didn't look out place.

    He was the driving force behind the appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson as national coach. It made the right wing press apoplectic - how could this upstart Scotsman appoint a foreigner? What about good old Terry Venables or Bobby Robson? Sack them all (and bring back hanging) it shouted. Thankfully Crozier got his way without even the merest hint of trouble. He was in total charge, and as Eriksson reinvigorated England, Crozier resuscitated the FA.

    This week was the first time many outside of England would have seen or heard of the ever more impressive Scotsman. In one speech, he made a more sustained and believable attack on Blatter than Johansson and Hayatou had managed all Spring long. And all he did was rebuke Blatter for not letting Hayatou supporters speak at the heavily staged event. But Crozier's words were accompanied by booing - not aimed at him, but aimed squarely at Sepp. For all Hayatou's wide-eyed innocence, and Johansson's heavyweight bluster, no one had ever got Sepp booed before. And the people booing were the same one's who were going to vote for Blatter on Election Day anyway. They didn't like the sleazy goings on as much as the next delegate, and were annoyed at Blatter's arrogance as well. What they needed was a comfortable outlet to express that 'outrage'. Crozier gave them just that.

    So as Johansson's light was going out, a new anti-Blatter voice emerged, cleverly and confidently. And Platini has a powerful rival for UEFA leadership. Platini may carry the gravitas of his FIFA role, not to mention his exemplary playing record, but Crozier looks the part, talks the talk, and hangs around with all the sexy English footballers. If Johansson was an old, soon to be extinct dinosaur, then Crozier is a healthy amphibian emerging to top the food chain in his wake.

    Still Crozier needs to be careful. Blatter has never been as powerful as he is now. He is ready to brush all the financial irregularities under FIFA's big, expensive carpet, and can pick his moment to purge his opponents with pleasure. Quite simply he has the developing world in his pocket to an extent that even Havelange never had. Two scenes from the election were very indicative of the victory Sepp was to achieve. First, even amid all the controversies and allegations of fraud, the police investigations and negative press reports, Johansson gave an honest interpretation of what was about to happen.

    "There are 204 member countries of FIFA'" he said "and how many of them do you really think care who the President of FIFA is? Small Asian or African countries don't care. What difference does it make to Nepal for example?"

    He continued "What they do care about is getting their grants as promised - their one-million-dollar shareout over four years. They want to keep the status quo. They do not want to rock the boat."

    More tellingly he finished by saying "We in Europe feel very differently about this but for hundreds of smaller countries, as long as they get their grant from FIFA, they are happy. Happy with the President, who is keeping his promise to them. Happy that FIFA is funding their development programmes."

    The second indicator came right at the end of the campaign. Even while the decent Hayatou was keeping up the sham of thinking he could win - and was guaranteeing 90% of African delegates would vote for him - the Libyan mission dragged a BBC reporting crew out of the CAF 'party' to state in the strongest terms possible they would be voting for Blatter. And that many others would be doing exactly the same.

    Blatter came on TV and smiled as demurely as a bald bank manager can, and said it was for the good of the game. Zen-Ruffinen said he would only answer 'general questions' and hurried off to find a job somewhere else; Johansson mumbled something about bringing football back together, just as he had done in 1998. Dr Chung Mong-Joon never even made the TV cameras. He had long since cut his losses on Hayatou, and went back to trying to ensure that Korea came across as more important than Japan. And Hayatou? Well you get the idea that Hayatou was not quite as useful as Johansson, Zen-Ruffinen and Chung thought he was going to be. He will be lucky to keep his job at CAF.

    Somewhere in Seoul - undoubtedly in the most luxurious surroundings you can possibly imagine - Blatter, Platini and Havelange will be laughing and slapping each other on the back (although whether Havelange can remember how to smile after all these years of looking stern is another question). For they have won, and just like the World Cup Final itself, we only ever remember the happy faces of the winners.

    Never doubt a bank manager; never doubt Mr Joseph S. Blatter.


 

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