KEIR RADNEDGE in SAO PAULO: Sepp Blatter accepted long ago that any announcement of his presence would draw jeers in any European stadium; but even he found the manner of UEFA’s ambush earlier this week a uniquely depressing experience.
FIFA’s veteran Swiss president undertook a whistle-stop of the ‘mini’ congresses of all six regional confederations at their various hotels in Sao Paulo on Monday and Tuesday.
The national association delegates of Africa, Asia, South America, Oceania and central/North America all afforded Blatter a warm welcome and an even warmer ovation when he talked of financial bonuses and his willingness to run again for the presidency.
That was until he wrapped up his triumphal tour in front of European federation UEFA.
Blatter’s remarks were received in stony silence and he had barely sat down before Dutch federation Michael Van Praag demanded his retirement from FIFA and England’s Greg Dyke excoriated him for his injudicious ‘racist’ attack on the British media.
Above all the Europeans left Blatter in no doubt that he had dispelled their trust by reversing his decision – promised to UEFA in 2011 – that this would be his last term in office.
Blatter, reportedly, appeared impervious to the onslaught, responding only that any man the right to a change of heart and that he was listening to all opinions before he decided on whether to run again.
After FIFA Congress, however, the mask slipped for a few seconds, just long enough for Blatter to concede: “A lack of respect, like what I saw and heard in the UEFA meeting, I have never had in my life – not even on the pitch.”
Van Praag, Dyke and Co may draw some satisfaction from that memory of that admission if Blatter, as seems likely, is indeed re-elected next year.