KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Marco Villiger, Michel Platini and Gianni Infantino, in that order, are the individuals on whom Sepp Blatter vents baffled and bitter frustration in his new tale of an increasingly scandal-battered 40 years in FIFA.
Blatter is serving a six-year suspension triggered in 2015 by the world federation’s ethics committee over a ‘disloyal payment’ of $2m to Platini, the Frenchman who was then head of European governing body UEFA and a FIFA vice-president.
The 82-year-old Swiss remains subject of criminal investigation concerning both that payment and the sale of World Cup television rights. No charges have been brought and he denies all wrongdoing.
Shortly after his suspension Blatter published Mission and Passion Football, a random collection of anecdotes and observations. Ma Verite (My Truth) is far more focused, down to verdicts on the men he considers as contributing to the downfall of ‘his’ FIFA**.
Villiger, former legal director and FIFA’s only survivor from the Blatter era as joint deputy secretary-general, is singled out for not warning him of the United States legal assault in advance, for having contracted Quinn Emanuel to defend FIFA’s interests without reference to him and for probably pointing Swiss authorities to the Platini payment paperwork.
Platini, brought into FIFA by Blatter as football counsellor in 1998 and then supported on his rise to UEFA president, is Blatter’s villain of the piece in the 2018/2022 World Cup farrago.
Blatter says Platini told him, the day after a Paris luncheon with then French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Qatar’s Emir-Apparent, that he was switching his 2022 vote from the US to the Gulf state.
Infantino, who catapulted after Platini’s suspension from UEFA general secretary to FIFA president, arouses Blatter’s ire for clearing out the established FIFA management and pursuing a European take-over of the world federation.
Blatter also takes issue with Infantino for “decapitating” the ethics committee by removing its independent status and sacking judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and investigator Cornel Borbely who were “working effectively even if they were also the ones who suspended me.”
He suspects deeper machinations, adding: “What was wanted, under American pressure, is that Michel Platini should not become president of FIFA. The Americans had not forgotten that Platini caused them to miss out on hosting the  World Cup.”
Ma Verite is a chronological tale of Blatter’s progress from journalism to sports administration to marketing manager to FIFA and subsequent climb from development director to general secretary to chief executive and the presidential pinnacle in 1998.
He claims he had no suspicions of the corruption all around him, ascribing ignorance to his own “trusting nature” — even after he sent back the notorious $1m cheque for then president Joao Havelange from FIFA marketing partner ISL. This “naivety” had “played some bad tricks on me.”
The opening chapter records how he ‘lived’ the beginning of the end on May 27, 2015, when the arrest of seven senior international football executives in Zurich’s Baur au Lac brought the house of golden cards tumbling around his ears.
Life out of office
The concluding chapter traces his life since the “apocalypse”, health problems, his intended presence at the World Cup in Russia and issues around the 2026 World Cup bid battle. Nor does he ignore his Christian faith, his three short-lived marriages and the icy ‘welome’ he received in 1975, on joining FIFA, from general secretary and future (brief) father-in-law Helmut Kaser.
Blatter concludes by expressing regret at “the political dimension taking hold of sport in general and football in particular.”
He sees this evidenced in the decisive intervention by the Sarkozy in the 2022 World Cup vote and political pressures surrounding Winter Olympics awards to Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018, not forgetting Russia’s imminent World Cup . . . to which he has been invited by President Vladimir Putin.
Blatter says his attendance should not be seen as “revenge against FIFA.”
He adds: “I am not angry with FIFA the institution but with its present directors: people who used to call to ask me for this or that but who then did absolutely nothing to defend me.”
Blatter may be suspended but he will not be silenced.
** Ma Verite by Sepp Blatter (with Pascal Schouwey). Published by Editions Heloise d’Ormesson.