FIFA president Sepp Blatter was cleared of wrongdoing by an ethics panel Sunday, paving the way for him to run unopposed for a fourth term in Wednesday’s election.
Executive committee members Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar were both suspended indefinitely in the wake of accusations that they offered $40,000 apiece to roughly 24 federation officials from the Caribbean in exchange for their votes for bin Hammam as FIFA president.
(Bin Hammam withdrew from the election before the panel convened, and he accused Blatter of knowing about and not opposing the alleged payments, hence Blatter’s appearance before the panel.)
Neither bin Hammam nor Warner was found guilty in the investigation, but both are suspended from any involvement with soccer until a full judicial inquiry can be staged.
Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, who oversaw the inquiry, said that the suspensions were necessary to “ensure that the investigation [pending; likely in July] is not compromised.”
No word on whether this statement was met by snickers, but plenty of comments at Blatter’s Monday press conference in Zurich were. A quick sampler, courtesy of The New York Times:
“I am the president of FIFA; you cannot question me.”
(Actual quote. No, really.)
“I believe that the decision which we took for World Cup 2022 was done exactly clean in the same pattern and again I say what I said at beginning of press conference there is no issue for the World Cup 2022.”
(This one prompted such a reaction from the assembled media that Blatter followed it up with: “We are not in a bazaar here, we are in FIFA House.”)
“Something has changed in FIFA and we will try to change more in future. I cannot change members of my government, it is not up to me.”
Blatter pleaded for respect over the reporter grumblings that followed that one, then abruptly pulled the plug on the press conference, walking offstage as journalists tried to lob more questions his way.
Other Juicy Bits From the Fallout
• “Why should I be hanged now, and by whom? The American Chuck Blazer? His American lawyer, John Collins? Give me a break, guys. I will hold my head high to the very end. I am not guilty of a single iota of wrongdoing.”
—ExCo member and CONCACAF president Jack Warner, speaking in the Trinidad Parliament on the eve of the ethics panel.
Merriam Webster has announced they will replace their current definition of the word chutzpah with the above.
Also, apparently, the word “American” is an insult in Trinidad and Tobago.
• There were two cases before the panel on Sunday. One involved bribery surrounding Wednesday’s FIFA presidential election, the other concerned vote-selling for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
In the latter, two FIFA ExCo members were suspended and four were cleared, due to insufficient evidence.
Among the cleared, our favorite was Nicolás Léoz of Paraguay, who (allegedly) requested both an honorary knighthood and that the FA Cup be named after him in exchange for voting for England’s 2018 bid.
That is just fantastic, and we applaud the imagination involved.
But there are some logistical issues. How, for example, would both honors be explained? Oh, yeah, this Paraguayan bureaucrat has been integral to English football and culture since way, way back in the day. We need to get that guy knighted, or at the very least, rename our 140-year-old domestic competition in his honor—stat. The British people will instantly recognize both honors as long overdue.
Finally, there was the following sensational statement from Blatter in his column on Inside World Football:
“When a Swiss farmer’s neighbor has a cow while he has none, the less fortunate farmer will work twice as hard so that one day he can buy a cow as well. When another farmer, elsewhere, on an island, say, has no cow but his neighbor does, that farmer will kill the neighbor’s cow out of sheer malice.
“I’d rather be a Swiss farmer, like it or not.”
“On an island, say, ….” Sepp—very subtle. Jack Warner lives on an island, doesn’t he?
Well, the island farmer was talking tough after Sunday’s hearing, promising that a “tsunami” of bad news would be visited upon FIFA in the coming weeks.
In any event, it’s on to Wednesday’s “election,” over the objection of British sports minister Hugh Robertson, who, according to the Times, has called on FIFA to suspend the vote, saying, “I think the process is fast descending into farce.”