ZURICH: Sepp Blatter, in a lecture assailed by anti-FIFA protesters, was telling his audience that critics fell short of fairplay in their attitude to both himself and the world federation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Riot police were summoned in Zurich last Monday when demonstrators chanted anti-FIFA slogans and tried to break into the ETH University where the FIFA president was marking the 75th anniversary of the Academic Sports Association Zurich.
The ASVZ is Switzerland’s largest cantonal sports association with 75,000 members and a sports complex, the Sport Center Fluntern, adjacent to the Home of FIFA.
Blatter had taken “Football as a School of Life” as his theme and indimated that some ‘FIFA-watchers’ had yet to graduate with a fairplay diploma.
In an address, subsequently published in FIFA Weekly, Blatter said: “The ball is round and the game lasts 90 minutes, as Sepp Herberger famously said. But the ball is rolling more than ever nowadays, and emotions are spiraling faster and faster. However, objectivity is often forgotten, especially when it comes to FIFA (and its president).
“Occasionally, it seems to me that I am being held to blame for all the ills of the world: the destruction of the rainforests, the rail strike in Germany, frequent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, and – it goes without saying – fluctuations on the world’s stock markets.”
Blatter also thus assumed he might have been considered at fault for the “miserable summer weather in Switzerland” though that need be balanced by “the wonderful autumn.”
More seriously he accepted that “one has to live with criticism in my position.”
However, in self-defence he added: “The principle of fair play should come before everything else. If the boundary is breached and fair play becomes foul, one must be allowed to defend oneself, and that includes against journalists.”
Talking more widely about FIFA’s role in providing development support, Blatter pointed to programmes such as Football for Hope, Football for Health and 11 for Health.
All were examples of football-based programmes “that can make a positive contribution to social change on a global level by dealing with the urgent issues within a community.
He added: “Football cannot solve all problems, but it can contribute significantly towards finding solutions.”
Blatter, who plans to stand for re-election next May for a fifth term, acknowledged that much of the pressure against him stemmed precisely from his status at the head of the world game.
He said: “At the end of the day real life closely resembles events on the field of play: you only target the man in possession – and, as FIFA president, I am by definition the man on the ball.”
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