Exclusive Interview Sepp Blatter: Speaks Candidly about Life at the Top, Africa's Challenges and CAF Boss Issa Hayatou

By Blatter, Sepp | New African, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Exclusive Interview Sepp Blatter: Speaks Candidly about Life at the Top, Africa's Challenges and CAF Boss Issa Hayatou


Blatter, Sepp, New African


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Why is West Africa at the top of the totem pole?

This 76-year-oic Swiss man is arguably the Tost powerful figure world sport. But what lies underneath the polished facade?

Saint? Sinner?

Or in between?

THOSE THAT ADMIRE AND respect Joseph T, Sepp Blatter, he is a visionary, fair and charismatic man, who sees football as a tool for good and has worked tirelessly, for nearly 4o years, to globally spread the game's gospel; for others, who loathe him-intensely-he is a wily, corrupt, power-crazed old bat, who could teach Niccolo Machiavelli a new thing or two about the malevolent use of power.

In his 14th year as football's chief custodian, having served as FIFA's general secretary for 17 years before that, the man from Visp, in the Swiss Alps, admits the game has been his world, at the expense of a happier, more stable personal life.

But that world has been rocked, to its very foundations, over the last few years, with the series of alleged and proven acts of high corruption--by FIFA's chieftains-which have done terrible damage to the image of the organisation, which Blatter admits requires a thorough clean-up.

Over the ambience of the 2012 Olympic Games, some orange juice and water at the Mayfair Hotel, in London's Green Park, Blatter gave Osasu Obayiuwana, our African Football Editor, an exclusive one-hour interview, in which he was compelled to confront this issue and the other burning topics in the sport.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Osasu Obayiuwana: At the 2011 FIFA congress, you promised to clean up the image of football, following the continuous corruption allegations and acts of malfeasance that have tainted its image, severely. One year on from Zurich, have things really improved?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Joseph Sepp Blatter: Definitely, things have improved. But it's not to the level that I expected or that I expect in future.

Our reform process is on the right track, which the chairman of our governance committee, Professor Pieth, testified to recently ... There are items that we had to deal with immediately. One was to enlarge the Ethics Committee and to ensure it has two chambers--one for investigation and the other a judicial body.

The second issue was concerning the audit and compliance committee. The set-up of this was at the congress in Budapest, Hungary and it starts its activities on the 9th of August in Zurich.

So, two of the three matters have been tackled ... The third one is the revision of the FIFA statutes. This committee is still working on it but hopefully we shall complete our reform process in 2013.

The release of the Swiss court papers, disclosing the payment of bribes to former FIFA president Joao Have-lange and former FIFA executive committee member Ricardo Texeira, have been a big talking point. It is revealed that you knew about the payment to Havelange but said nothing. Your argument is that his receipt of the money, under Swiss law, was not illegal. But surely, you can see there is an ethical issue here?

After the congress in 2011, there was an executive committee meeting in Zurich last October, which approved--although not with an overwhelming majority--to open the ISL file. We wanted to make the file public by the end of 2011 but there was legal opposition to it. Now it has been done.

On my proposal, before the executive committee, I said that once the file was opened, the information should be handed to an independent investigator who will examine it. This has now happened, even though there was a move, by some members in the executive committee, to stop this ... It is now up to the independent prosecutor. And so, I will not enter into a further discussion about this matter.

As the president of FIFA, there is no doubt that you are a powerful man with a lot of influence in the world. …

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