Last week, Sepp Blatter was elected to a fifth term as president of FIFA, consolidating and reasserting his power even as each day brought more news of corruption, bribes and indictments under his watch.
By Tuesday, something clearly had changed and Blatter announced that he would resign. It is not clear when that will become official, but an “extraordinary congress” and an election will be held, at the earliest, in four months.
Whoever emerges as the strongest candidate will have to build a consensus from among the world’s confederations and that will require the kind of politicking, glad-handing and brokering at which Blatter was adept. Michel Platini, head of the powerful and influential Union of European Football Associations, and Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, a member of the executive committee, are considered the likeliest candidates to replace Blatter.
Platini, of course, is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and, on Tuesday, the organization he heads announced that it would meet Friday to consider whether to boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a move that would have, of course, been hugely significant.
Prince Ali hinted Tuesday to CNN that he might run again, saying he is “always there to serve football….We have to do so much work to fix this organization.” Blatter beat Prince Ali in the election on Friday by a 133-73 margin (needing two-thirds of votes of the 209 countries) that was not enough to avoid a second ballot. However, Prince Ali withdrew his name and Blatter was awarded the fifth term on the first ballot.
On Monday, as the corruption crept closer to Blatter, Prince Ali told CNN that, if he were Blatter, he would have “immediately resigned.” He added, “He is responsible, and I hope that at some stage he actually does take responsibility for actions because he is the president of a governing body of the most popular sport in the world.”
Luis Figo, the former Portugal player who was one of several candidates who had challenged Blatter before dropping out, has continued his criticism of Blatter, writing last week on Facebook:
This vote has only served to endorse the election of a man who can’t remain in charge of world football. Instead of what Mr. Blatter said, the happenings of last Wednesday were not bad for football: they were bad for FIFA and for all the responsible that lead the organization until now. Football is not guilty but is the governing body’s leaders, who should regulate it, that have no integrity or honesty
There’s no way someone can lead FIFA ignoring the most elementary rules of transparency, legality and democracy. These rules were not reunited as I denounced and, later, as I found out.
Mr. Blatter knew and was aware of the acts of corruption, influence and racketeering or, if he did not know – as he says – it’s because he has no skills to lead FIFA. There is no other way to analyze the problem.
Michael van Praag, president of the Dutch Football Association, also dropped a challenge to Blatter but pledged his support to Prince Ali, a significant move.