KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, never backward when it comes to pouring scorn on his successor Gianni Infantino, has derided the decision by the current head of world football to set up an alternative home in Qatar.
FIFA noted in October that Infantino had decided it would be prudent to split his time between Switzerland and the Gulf state which will host the World Cup in November and December thought, “for the avoidance of doubt, Mr. Infantino is domiciled in Switzerland and remains subject to tax.”
Infantino is not the first FIFA president to distance himself from headquarters in Zurich. Joao Havelange, the Brazilian who transformed FIFA from a back-room operation to sporting financial giant, retained a home in Rio de Janeiro and visited Zurich only when necessary.
At the weekend the Swiss newspaper Blick reported that Infantino now lived “mainly” in Doha, where he “has rented a house for himself and his family” with two of his four daughters now being educated there.
Apart from the diplomatically-delicate World Cup Doha will also be the venue for FIFA Congress in March.
Critics of the 51-year-old Swiss lawyer have suggested his demi-move sends out a negative message while FIFA-connected court cases still rumble on in Switzerland. FIFA itself has also downgraded the significance of its Zurich headquarters by preparing new administrative outposts in New York, Paris and London.
Blatter, who was banned from football for a total of 12 years after a scandal-battered 17-year reign in Zurich, said via Twitter: “Gianni Infantino moving to Qatar doesn’t surprise me.
“Apparently he doesn’t feel comfortable in Switzerland. He wants to move FIFA’s headquarters to Paris and has the intention of outsourcing part of the administration to the US.
“In my opinion, this is a bad development. FIFA came to Zurich in 1932 because of its political and economic stability. Was I also planning a change of residence when I was president of FIFA? No! I would never change my home according to the World Cups.”
Blatter’s reign was effectively responsible for the staging of World Cups in in Japan/South Korea in 2002, in Germany in 2006, in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014. Secretary-general Jerome Valcke spent considerable time in both South Africa and Brazil overseeing preparations and smoothing diplomatic channels.
This time it appears that Infantino has taken up that role while secretary-general Fatma Samoura has been entrusted with ‘minding the shop’ in Switzerland.
Blatter is due to stand trial later this year in Switzerland, along with former UEFA president Michel Platini, on fraud allegations. These arose out of a payment of $2m to Platini by FIFA, on Blatter’s authorisation, for work the Frenchman had undertaken for FIFA between 1999 and 2002.
Both men deny the charges.