KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Klaus Stohlker, long-term adviser to Sepp Blatter, has delivered a remarkable eulogy to the achievements of the FIFA president who was suspended for 90 days last week pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct in office.
Blatter was removed, at least temporarily, from command of the world football federation by its ethics committee, acting in response to a criminal investigation launched by the Office of the Swiss Attorney-General. A similar suspension was issued, simultaneously, to Frenchman Michel Platini who heads European federation UEFA and is a FIFA vice-president.
In an article published on the website of the finance news outlet Inside ParadePlatz, Stohlker ascribed to Blatter all the credit for the worldwide popularity of football and poured derision on the petty jealousies of UEFA and its member associations and clubs. He also scorned Swiss business and society for not recognising the achievements of ‘one of their own’.
“Joseph S. Blatter has built world football’s governing body FIFA into a global corporation over the past 40 years and almost no one in Switzerland has noticed,” complained Stohlker.
“Now FIFA is in a growing crisis for which everybody wants the head of Sepp Blatter while nobody understands what this man has done for world football and for Switzerland.”
Stohlker compared the demands for Blatter’s removal with the violent fury of the mobs during the French Revolution.
He said: “I am of a different opinion: Sepp Blatter is the father of world football, which did not exist before him. In 40 years he has built an organisation with 1.6bn fans, 300m active participants and 209 national associations with a worldwide turnover of more than sFr300bn.
“While the wolves howl in Europe and the US, the fans flock to the stadia; in 2015 the growth of the global football industry can be measured at more than 20pc.”
Stohlker pointed out that Blatter had no control over the confederations and the delegates with which they populated the executive committee. Yet he should not be denied the credit for world football’s “explosive growth” in the past decade.
“Out of poverty,” said Stohlker, “FIFA has become rich enough to afford an investment of sFr1.5bn a year in football development. Sepp Blatter has built this. It means sFr600,000 every day for the national football associations, the advancement of women’s football which is winning over the world’s media as well as the creation of globally accepted laws for ‘the beautiful game’.”
Then Stohlker’s anger at Blatter’s treatment ramped up another notch as he raged against the “robber barons wanting to take possession of the game.”
Blatter, he said, was the first man to demand – as long as 10 years ago – new rules to guide the growth of world football. Stohlker continued: “Who stood in his way? UEFA president Michel Platini and many European national associations, especially Germany and France. The Swiss official’s drive for reform was held back by the major European football nations.
“Sepp Blatter believed everyone in the world had the right to play football. Hence the Latin Americans adored him, even more the Africans whom he brought up to world standard as well as Asia and Oceania who consider him the ‘father of football’.
“The Europeans saw their control ebb away. The richest clubs in the world had to recognise that the game they had once commanded will be developed by others – especially China.”
The wealth of FIFA, according to Stohlker, had attracted the attention of publicity-seeking public officials such as Loretta Lynch and Michael Lauber, attorneys-general of the United States and Switzerland respectively. Both had sought to raise their own public profiles by attacking FIFA.
Money, insisted Stohkler, was at the root of this evil. Hence UEFA’s assault on Blatter’s person and creation.
He added: “UEFA is the home of the richest clubs in the world and wants to keep control of the world game through the help of Michel Platini; the Asians, Africans and Arabs see a unique opportunity to use the power of their majorities within FIFA to dominate world football; the United States, with its own ‘football’ stagnating, sees how the immigrant Latinos and Asians are achieving fabulous growth rates with ‘football European-style’.”
All this, said Stohlker, was due to the work and vision of one man – and it was time that his Swiss fellow-countrymen appreciated the fact.
Stohlker conluded: “Our fellow Swiss, Sepp Blatter, has built this world model and loved and defended it. Now it looks as if we Swiss are doing everything we can to ensure that it falls into the wrong hands.
“The world is hungry for this genuine Swiss product but the establishment and media in Switzerland have forgotten what it means for our country.
“FIFA is a Swiss global player. The FIFA Museum, which will open next spring in Zurich, will be a national attraction. I demand respect for Sepp Blatter.”
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