Geneva, June 3 (IANS) After getting re-elected last week to a fifth consecutive term as FIFA president — comprehensively defeating Jordanian challenger Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Swiss Sepp Blatter surprised the football world on Tuesday when he announced that he had finally decided to step down. Speculations have begun a day later as to who shall succeed the world football strongman who led FIFA for 17 years.
Four days into his four-year term, Blatter told a press conference held at the Zurich headquarters of the football world governing body that “FIFA needs a complete overhaul… I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football”, reports Xinhua.
An extraordinary Congress is to be organised by FIFA’s executive committee as soon as possible so that a new president can be elected.
According to Tribune de Geneve, this will take place some time between December 2015 and March 2016, until which time the 79-year-old will remain at the federation’s helm which he has headed since 1998.
Blatter’s decision came as a shock because the Swiss had been easily re-elected for a fifth consecutive term — and the world football governing body’s crisis continues to rage amid continuing revelations in a widespread corruption scandal.
Seven top FIFA officials were arrested by Swiss police at their Zurich hotel last Wednesday by Swiss police on the request of US authorities, a day before FIFA’s 65th two-day congress was to begin.
A total of nine high-profile North, Central and South-American FIFA officials besides five corporate executives have been indicted on allegations of fraud, bribery and money laundering.
The crisis, however, seems far from over as Jerome Valcke, Blatter’s right-hand man and FIFA secretary general, has now found himself enmeshed in bribery accusations.
According to Le Temps, citing American media, the Frenchman is believed to have transferred $10 million to accounts managed by FIFA’s former vice president Jack Warner to seal the deal on South Africa’s 2010 World Cup candidacy — FIFA has, however, cleared Valcke’s name from any wrongdoing.
Le Temps cites this latest development as the tipping point which encouraged Blatter to resign, as he “knew that this affair was going to poison his fifth mandate”.
Though Blatter benefitted from the support of both the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), even prior to the elections, European football association (UEFA) head Michel Platini had asked the Swiss to step down, telling him that “enough is enough” in a pointed reference to allegations of corruption against Blatter.
Now that the wheels have been set in motion for the deep structural changes called for by Blatter on Tuesday to take place, speculations as to who will stand for president have begun.
Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, will lead the search for Blatter’s successor as well as facilitate the implementation of reforms which will “include fundamental changes to the way in which this organization is structured”.
According to media reports, Jordanian Prince Ali, who secured 73 out of the 206 valid votes on Friday at the FIFA Congress, has already thrown his hat in the ring for the presidency.
Platini has also been suggested as a possible contender, as have Michael van Praag and Luis Figo, who were candidates in this year’s election until withdrawing from the race shortly before the ballot took place.
Though it is still too early to say who will definitely stand for the vaunted position, what is certain is that it will be FIFA’s 209-member Congress that will have the final say.