KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY: Sepp Blatter will be riding into town next week as Michel Platini’s guest for the closing climax of Euro 2012.
Kyiv on Sunday, July 1, will witness handshakes, hugs, back-slapping and smiles all round between presidents of FIFA and UEFA, relieved organizers from Poland and Ukraine plus whichever politicians deem it appropriate to turn up for the final.
Platini will congratulate Blatter on the progress of the FIFA reform process and Blatter will congratulate Platini on a magnificent tounament whose football quality has far exceeded the last few World Cups.
Most FIFA-watchers consider Platini the odds-on favourite to head across from Nyon to Zurich when (and if) Blatter steps down as president of FIFA in the spring of 2015. Most FIFA-watchers also assume that Blatter would not be ill-disposed towards this outcome.
After all, it was Blatter who brought Platini into FIFA in the first place as his ‘counsellor’ after his initial election success in 1998 and FIFA and UEFA have worked well together since Platini ousted Lennart Johansson at the head of the European federation in 2007 (Spare a thought for Johansson: an honourable man whose ‘punishment’ for outstaying his time was very public beatings by both Blatter and Platini).
‘For the good of the game’
FIFA and UEFA need to work together well, for the good of the game – in the terms of the old (and best) FIFA slogan: 90pc of the wealth of the worldwide game is generated by Europe which also provides half of the World Cup finalists and whose clubs attract the vast majority of the event’s players.
But . . . this does not necessarily establish Platini as Blatter’s personal favourite as successor. Blatter, of course, would not even go near such a question.
Consider: three-quarters of the votes in FIFA Congress are non-European and, the nearer 2015 draws, the more intense will grow speculation that the rest of the world would not want yet another European (Joao Havelange is the only non-European among eight FIFA presidents in more than a century).
Then there are the increasing concerns that Platini’s UEFA, with his expansion of the Euro finals to 24 teams, is heading down the same finance-before-football path which very nearly wrecked FIFA.
Blatter has taken advantage of the opportunities which come his way to distance himself from Platini. First clear straw in the wind was Blatter’s recent insistence that FIFA overrule Platini’s politically-driven opposition to even allowing Kosovo teams to play ‘outside’ friendlies.
Platini fumed that Blatter was “playing politics” although it was his Serb friends (and their Russian puppeteers) who had been playing politics in the first place.
Now Blatter has seized on the Ukraine-England drama to champion the cause of goal-line technology (to which he is but a two-year convert) to the public discomfit of Platini and the Frenchman’s fatuous five-officials project.
Expect to see more of the same in the next three years.
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Also at www.WorldSoccer.com
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