ZURICH: UEFA Congress in Astana in March last year was the event, the place and the time when Sepp Blatter took the worst personal decision in all his 40 years with FIFA. That was the day on which he indicated he was changing his mind about stepping down as president.
Over the succeeding months the veteran Swiss administrator teased colleagues, critics and media with a further cascade of ever more insistent hints that he would break the promise delivered to congress in 2011.
On the eve of the 2014 World Cup he was hailed by one confederation after another as he engaged in a triumphal procession from one congress to another in Sao Paulo . . . until he came to UEFA where he was told in no uncertain terms that he should quit for the good of the game and of FIFA.
If anything Blatter reacted to the shock of rejection with an ever-stronger determination to carry on for a fifth term to which he was duly elected this past May 29.
But, over the past four years, all the men who once acquiesed in in his omnipotence have fallen by the wayside, for one reason or another.
In 2011 Jack Warner and Mohamed bin Hammam, respective presidents of CONCACAF and the Asian confederation, were driven from power for plotting against the president they had helped maintain in power since 1998;
In 2014 Joao Havelange, Blatter’s still-powerful predecessor, relinquished the honorary presidency after being caught with his Brazilian hands in the ISL till;
On May 27 Jeffrey Webb, supposed ‘new face’ of CONCACAF and a Blatter protege, was among seven men arrested in Zurich on a United States corruption indictment;
On May 28 Michel Platini, labelled by Blatter as his ‘dauphin’, told his old mentor on the eve of congress that he should not stand again;
On June 11 Walter De Gregorio, the former war correspondent hand-picked by Blatter to take on FIFA’s critics as communications director, was dismissed after compounding a fall-out over strategy with an anti-Blatter joke in a TV interview which backfired;
On September 1 Thomas Renggli, considered as Blatter’s ‘ghost-writer’, resigned after being identified as the author of a ‘smear campaign’ article about Platini’s presidential ambitions; and
On September 17 (yesterday) Jerome Valcke, powerful right-hand man first as head of marketing and then, since 2007, as secretary-general, was suspended for reasons yet to be clarified.
Will there be anyone left to organise the presidential election next February 26?