KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Some sulky dimwit in Nyon has come up with a sour-grapes response to Sepp Blatter’s expected statement next week that he wants to carry on as president of FIFA.
Nyon, the HQ of European federation UEFA, is reverberating to the sound of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth at the prospect of 2015 heralding four more years at the head of the world game for Blatter, barring act of God or Garcia.
Blatter is odds-on to sweep the board in next year’s presidential election, whoever may stand against him. The prospect so upsets UEFA that the idea is for Europe’s football bosses to sit on their hands and scowl ferociously when Blatter declares himself at FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo.
That will scare him. Not.
The second strand of this misguided strategy as UEFA bosses head for Brazil is that, next year, they should put up some sacrificial lamb to be beaten out of sight by Blatter in the FIFA election.
As a gesture of dissatisfaction.
How utterly pathetic.
Such a strategy betrays a staggering truth: wealthy, gold-encrusted, Champions League-enriched UEFA cannot find one man (or woman) with the character, style, vision and political skill to take on a 78-year-old whose FIFA career has been scandal-battered by ISL, votes-for-cash, Qatar etc.
Not one single solitary person.
In normal circumstances one would expect the leader of Europe to pick up the gauntlet. But these are less than normal circumstances.
At a time when Blatter should be at his most vulnerable UEFA president Michel Platini appears not to fancy either the fight or the FIFA job.
He has delayed his announcement until the autumn. Then he will say, presumably, that financial fair play, an expanded Euro 2016, a baffling League of Nations and an all-over-the-place Euro 2020 demand his full attention for the next few years.
Hence the idea that some sort of mini-Michel, a substitute, should stand against Blatter instead. Names raised have been Holland’s Michael Van Praag and Germany’s Wolfgang Niersbach.
Now Niersbach has the demeanour of a man of ambition who might, one day, emerge as a serious European candidate for the FIFA presidency post-Blatter. Would he want to scale the ladder of power with the label of beaten stooge in his cv? Surely not.
Yet . . . if UEFA wants to make a statement then the answer is already out there: His name is Jerome Champagne.
Champagne is French and he declared his candidacy back in January. He is also resigned to the fact that he stands no chance of winning against Blatter.
The old guard in UEFA has little love for Champagne. He is considered a devoted FIFA man. The reason is simple: he spent 11 years working in the upper echelons in Zurich before being sacrificed by Blatter after losing one political battle too many in January 2010.
But this inside knowledge would also be a massive advantage for Champagne as a UEFA-endorsed candidate. He knows FIFA. He knows how it works. More important, he knows how it does not work. In fact, he knows FIFA far better than anyone in UEFA, including Platini.
More than that, polyglot Champagne not only has more worldwide languages than anyone else in UEFA’s leadership but far more established and far-reaching contacts around the world.
These two facts are also reasons why Europe’s finest are suspicious of him.
But – and this is what should matter the most – he has thought deeply about the future of the game based on its history and its potential and he wants a democratic restructuring which would bring leagues and clubs closer to the heart of power.
This latter point is right up UEFA’s financial street.
Now for the practical realities.
Firstly, Champagne is a real candidate who has done ‘the knowledge.’ Secondly, Europe can never hope to tilt for FIFA power until it finds a candidate who has demonstrated a vision for the game in which UEFA has a generous, positive, outgoing sense of purpose within a world context.
Not the present UEFA which is seen by the rest of the world as some sort of black hole which magnetises and then devours the most talented players and coaches from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
Running a candidate next year with a world perspective would earn Europe far more kudos and respect than a mean-spirited demonstration of frustration . . . frustration at the admission of UEFA’s own failure to prime a serious candidate of its own.