Sepp Blatter - 10 things you should know about outgoing Fifa president
From offending women and gay people, to hating the media (despite being a former journalist) - how the Swiss rose to the top of football
1. Sepp Blatter was born in Visp, a remote Alpine town in Switzerland in 1936. He has been married three times and has one daughter, Corinne, who lives in Visp where she owns a local restaurant.
“I think when he’s gone, when he’s not Fifa president, they are going to realise what he has done,” she said. “Thanks to him the world is a little better.”
2. He sought election as Fifa president for an unprecedented fifth term. He worked at Fifa since 1975, first as technical director, then general secretary for 17 years from 1981 and then as Fifa president for the past 17 years, having first been elected in 1998 (below).
3. Blatter is fond of reminding journalists that he was once a sports writer and member of the International Association of Sports Journalists. He had graduated from the University of Lausanne with a business degree and previously worked in PR. So legend has it, he also worked as a wedding singer to supplement his income.
4. Blatter has regularly offended with his remarks about women in football. Asked how to improve the popularity of their sport, he said: “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty if you excuse me for saying so.”
5. He has also caused outrage over his pronouncements on racism in football (he said “there is no racism”), on homosexuality (he advised gay fans at the 2022 Qatar World Cup to “refrain”) and told John Terry, following allegations of an extramarital affair, that “if this happened in, let’s say Latin countries, then I think he would be applauded”.
6. Allegations of serious corruption by Fifa officials have followed his presidency. Last week’s 47 FBI charges span almost 25 years and involve more than £97.5 million in illegal payments. The individuals indicted by the US prosecutors are nine Fifa officials and five marketing executives. Blatter himself has not been charged.
7. Blatter (pictured below with Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe) might be despised by many football fans and officials in Europe but has been brilliant at shoring up his power base by remaining hugely popular with countries in Asia and Africa. Each of the 209 Fifa nations has one vote in today’s election, regardless of the population, meaning Montserrat, Cape Verde and Curacao have as much say as Germany, Brazil and England.
8. There appears little hope of England hosting the World Cup without huge reform in Fifa. Immediately before voting for the 2018 World Cup, Blatter apparently reminded members of the executive committee of the “evils of the media”.
He also blamed the UK media for creating the controversy over Qatar hosting the World Cup, despite the allegations of bribery and the tournament being moved to the winter because it was subsequently decided that the original bid proposal was not feasible.
“Sadly there is a great deal of discrimination and racism, and this hurts me,” said Blatter.
9. Sepp Blatter’s salary as Fifa president has never been disclosed, but it is estimated that £100 million a year was paid out to executives in personal expenses and that Fifa’s revenue stands at £3.7 billion.
10. He speaks fluent French, Italian, English, German and Spanish. Friends, colleagues and rivals generally concur that he can be charming - note his tendency to dance (dreadfully) at major public events - but utterly ruthless.
“When it serves him – and when his power is at stake – he will do almost anything to defend it,” said Gerhard Aigner, Uefa’s former general secretary.