KEIR RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Sepp Blatter was thrilled with the World Cup extragavanza in Brazil but not happy enough to award it 10 out of 10.
While the FIFA president, in reviewing events on the morning after the month before, hailed the dramatic standard of the football itself he picked up on at least one aspect in which improvement is needed next time around in Russia in 2018.
This was the manner in which FIFA and the organisers on the ground dealt with issues of racism and discrimination which popped up during the finals. Hence Brazil 2014 earned 9.25 because, as Blatter always notes: “Perfection does not exist.”
He said: “I am a happy man because I have followed this I have have followed this World Cup on two different levels – firstly, as the president of FIFA and secondly, as a footballer.
“It was great football and never has any single sporting or cultural event has such intensity around the world through all the electronic means at our disposal today. Even the Pope, though he was not so happy that his team [Argentina] did not win, said that this was a wonderful World Cup in connecting people.”
However, Blatter added: “I’m not sure we have been very successful in all matters. One was in giving a message of peace and, while we can work for a better world, we cannot make it.
“Also, in the matter of racism, we have to fight against racism and discrimination and I am not totally happy with the way we fought against this.
“We spoke yesterday with [Russian] President Putin. He insisted that the next World Cup will be devoted to the fight against discrimination and racism.”
This latter comment will be recalled regularly over the next four years after concerns over racist incidents at Russian league matches and the LGBT controversy which stalked the Winter Olympics in Sochi last February.
At one point during the finals Jeff Webb, the CONCACAF president who heads FIFA’s anti-discrimination effort, took disciplinary chairman Claudio Sulser to task for a lack of enforcement. Webb was also upset by FIFA’s own failure to deploy anti-racism observers at all matches.
Blatter picked out Holland’s second-half display in their 5-1 opening demolition of world champions Spain as a particular highly “because then I knew something very special was happening in this World Cup.”
He conceded he had also been surprised initially by the nomination of Argentina’s Lionel Messi as top player but conceded that the Barcelona forward had been decisive in everty match on the albiceleste’s run to the Final.
Blatter concluded: “You cannot compare one World Cup with another because they all have their qualities but the football on the field of play was exceptional and the bar for the next World Cup has been set very high.”