Controversy has followed Sepp Blatter ever since he became the President of FIFA in 1998. The latest accusations have come from Brazilian World Cup winner and now politician Romario, who has accused Blatter of being a "thief" and for "robbing the Brazilian people". He added that Blatter has little interest in leaving Brazil in a good state after the World Cup. "FIFA got what it came for: money", said the former striker. He added, "Things like transportation that affect the public after the tournament is over. They don't care about that, they don't care about what is left behind". His comments come after the amount being spent on stadiums was revealed to be less than the amount being spent on infrastructure.
It led me to ask the question, what has the 75 year old done in his 15 years that has changed football for the better? Firstly, he replaced the silver goal with the golden goal, meaning the first team to score in extra time was the winner. This has since reverted back to extra time and the penalty shoot out. He changed the rule so that from 2002 the current World champions do not automatically qualify for the World Cup. He has enforced suspensions for all players sent off, even if TV replays show otherwise, stating that the referee's decision is final and they will make mistakes. This is a rule the FA have refused to follow, allowing red cards to be reviewed. In 2004, he stated that players who remove their shirts or celebrate in an exaggerated manner will be booked. Has this changed football for the better? He has, however, been involved in many humanitarian efforts to bring football to the less privileged areas across the globe and was involved in campaigns to increase public awareness of children's rights. He has also visited the countries that were affected by the tsunami in 2006.
For all the "good" that he has done for the game of football, he and FIFA have never been too far away from media criticism as his tenure has been littered with ill advised comments, corruption and more recently the fiasco that is Qatar 2022.
There have been many controversial statements made by Blatter. When commenting on the match fixing scandal in Italy he said, "I could understand it if had happened in Africa but not in Italy". Advising how gay fans should behave during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is banned, he said, "I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities". Finally, he had his own advice on how to attract more followers to women's sports, "Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could for example have tighter shorts"
His reluctance to use goal line technology angered many and the situation intensified after Frank Lampard's controversial disallowed goal in the 2010 World Cup. He even apologised to the English FA, but refused to back down believing that an introduction of technology would be the beginning of the end. Eventually, and to everyone's relief, goal line technology was implemented in leagues across Europe and has been endorsed for the World Cup in Brazil.
More recently, however, and surely the straw that should break the camel's back, the awarding of the 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar. Temperatures could reach 50 degrees in the summer, conditions that will be too dangerous for players and fans. The World Cup is likely to be moved away from the summer heat and into the bearable winter months, causing huge problems for many European domestic leagues. A mistake has been made, it should not have been awarded to Qatar. Add to this the allegations of diabolical working conditions for migrant workers in the country and the whole episode has been hugely embarrassing for Blatter and FIFA.
All this in a career spanning 15 years. Surely it is time for the man from Switzerland to hand the baton to someone who is more in touch with the game?
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