“Blatter will never retire. He will stay until the mortician arrives with the black bag to take his body out.”
Steve Amoia recently had the opportunity to interview respected investigative journalist and film maker, Mr. Andrew Jennings, whose recent book, “Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals” painted FIFA in a hue that many at the world governing body would have rather not seen. Mr. Jennings is one of the few journalists who have written extensively about the inner workings at FIFA.
What follows is Part 4 of the interview where Andrew discusses FIFA’s relationship with football and Sepp Blatter’s role in governing the beautiful game. Parts 1, 2 and 3, as well as the audio of the interview, can be found here.
In September of this year, Mr. Blatter made a visit to South Africa to inspect their stadia and infrastructure ahead of World Cup 2010. Is there any possibility that FIFA could take the World Cup away from South Africa (Plan B), and if so, who would be candidates to host the event on such short notice?
You can take the World Cup away from any country. Even a stable one. You’ve got seven years from the bid to the actual hosting. Anything is possible. One thing about South Africa is that it is a money making enterprise. They are very happy to have the World Cup there. Economic activity, job creativity, etc, all the ways of making money out of a sports tournament.
They know they’ve got problems on crime, on a few other problems, and Blatter exploits that. Just go back two years to Addis Ababa, a FIFA an African Union convention, Blatter gave a speech there and said, ‘The World Cup this time will be for Africa.’ And I thought it won’t be because whatever he says, usually the opposite comes true.
I’ve looked over the contracts. They call for stadium design, decorating, updating the stadiums, all of those things, and that is going out to friends of his in Germany and Switzerland. You know when he says we need a Plan B, he is just finishing negotiations on a business deal with South African organizers… And if he says, ‘Well, there is a lot of interest in Australia, or it could go back to Germany, they’d like to do it,’ it is a negotiating tool to flatten the guy on the other side of the table… The South Africans are making more and more concessions. And they won’t take it away. And I’ll tell you why. Blatter wants to be reelected in 2011, and if they take it away, Africa’s votes will immediately go to another candidate. They won’t take it away…
In your opinion, what was the real reason why Mr. Blatter refused to present the Italians with the World Cup trophy in Berlin? (He did present it to the Italian FA in September 2008).
Let’s wind the clock back to Seoul in 2002. The Koreans are very well mannered people, they don’t get too excited. Herr Blatter arrives at the stadium to give his ‘Hello, this is the World Cup, it’s the most wonderful sporting event in the world’ which it could be, and the booing started. Remember, he stopped, he stumbled, he said ‘Uh, uh, Fair Play, Fair Play’ and they booed him. And that really shook him because he was demonstrating to the whole world that he is scum. That he is not a friend of the people or sports.
Then he got booed in England, and in Switzerland, and he even got booed again in Wales. But when it came to the World Cup in Germany, he got very nervous, and I don’t think he started the opening ceremony. Traditionally, at the closing ceremony, you go and give the trophy to the winning team! He didn’t. Originally, his spin doctors were spinning all sorts of stories that he really doesn’t like the Italians, and in Italy, someone said he was anti-Italian, it could have been anyone.
But if he would have walked out on that pitch in Berlin, the booing would have started. Especially in Germany, in that stadium with all those football fans, from all of those nationalities, would be booing. And that would look dreadful on television. So he didn’t do it. He ran away from the fans who pay the money to make the football work.
He did it because there were no fans to boo. Obviously, the team and the coaches are going to be respectful. What a shame. I’d wish one of them had said ‘The fans have asked me to show you something.’ Turn around, drop his trousers, and in front of the cameras, moon Blatter. Can you imagine. Not too disgusting for children or weaker members of the family. Because it is funny. It would have destroyed Blatter. I’m not saying they should do it. Never mind.
Mr. Blatter’s term of office ends in 2011. Could someone such as Michel Platini, the current UEFA President and one of the stars of the modern era, change the status quo at FIFA if he became the next President?
You know, a friend of mine in French football once said to me, ‘I’ll tell you about Platini.’ He (Platini) once came up to me and said ‘Hello Andrew, I’ve heard about you.’ So I turned to my friend and asked him to tell me about Michel Platini, I don’t really understand him.
He said ‘Andrew, great player, great player, but he played in those days with those big, heavy, wet footballs. And he headed it too many times. Platini is not the brightest.’ Just because you are a great athlete doesn’t mean you can run a Confederation. Gosh, great footballer, but doesn’t mean you can run a Confederation or be a match commentator or summarizer. He got ambitious, Blatter took advantage of him, fixed the vote to get him elected as UEFA President. He is not corrupt. He is part of the new generation that is not involved with the marketing or bribery scandals. Michel is not that sort. He just is not very bright. He is promoting Euro 2012 in Ukraine. It’s never going to happen in Ukraine. I don’t see it because Ukraine is so Mobbed up. I was talking to a friend of mine this morning in Ukraine and he said that most of the people in the world are good, but there are a tiny group that affect the rest of us. So Michel can’t turn his back and say the mob is stealing the money, there will never be the structure built, we are going to take it away, stadia can’t be built. He can’t do that.
I don’t think Platini will replace Blatter. The man in the wings waiting to make the move is Franz Beckenbauer. All you got to know about him is that he is another guy who was a fantastic player, and we are taking nothing away from the Kaiser’s skills as a footballer, and as the manager of a World Cup team (Germany in 1986 and 1990). But if you have looked into his history as I’ve done, some of it is in my book, but when he finished his playing career, Joao Havelange, Blatter, and a German owner, Horst Dassler, Beckenbauer and his manager opened his own company in a canton in Switzerland where marketing contracts were warehoused, nobody could get to them, liquidators, things like that. So Beckenbauer has been along side all of this corruption for over 30 odd years. I don’t think he is corrupt. I never never thought that Beckenbauer takes bribes. But he is representing the old generation.
Hildbrand (the one investigating FIFA bribes) could indict Blatter. Beckenbauer is waiting in the wings. He is like the runner in the 100 meters. He is in the blocks, he is down, he is waiting for the gun to go. So is Platini. But Beckenbauer will act faster, and I don’t think, even though he has his French speaking lieutenants out in Africa, that Platini has got the votes, I don’t think they’ll do it.
Here is a clue. Just before the World Cup in 2006, Beckenbauer went on the road with a replica of the World Cup trophy. As an ambassador for the World Cup. Now we know that is one commodity in the world that you don’t have to sell. It’s the football World Cup. Everybody wants it. Television, tickets, marketing action.
So what he was doing was going around the world, meeting football officials telling him he was a great guy. That was the beginning of Beckenbauer’s election campaign. Now, he’ll never win against Blatter unless Blatter is removed by the cops. Or wait until Blatter will die because Blatter will not retire. It’s the same old thing at a corrupt organization. Even a priest can take holidays, even criminals, because something could go wrong in their parish.
Blatter will never retire. He will stay until the mortician arrives with the black bag to take his body out. Because they’ve got to look after the archives. They can’t let people see the contracts they made over the years. So the two front runners are Beckenbauer and Platini. And there is something wrong. Why isn’t there anybody else? Where is another person? There is something really rotten in the state of football. One, Platini, is not up to the job. He is screwing up in Europe. He is not a good organizer. And Beckenbauer is part of the older generation that is corrupt. Let’s see what the cops do. They could change things overnight.
World Cup 2018. Will England host another World Cup, or has this one already been decided?
Well, I’m an investigative journalist. I investigate what has happened. Speculation is free. People speculate all over the Internet about that. But what do we know is going on? I don’t think they (England) will pay bribes. Now that will usually be a handicap. But we are in a very volatile time. We already know what happened to the Stock Market, to banks globally, we are going into serious recession globally, and that’s going to change the whole game. I can see television saying sorry we can’t pay you the money, advertising rates going South at high speed, that’s going to change it all. If Blatter goes that will be a big change at FIFA. If Blatter goes, Jack Warner goes straight away.
I think that Grondona of Argentina, chairman of the FIFA Finance Committee, and the famous quote, let’s remember that it is true, I have it on tape, in my book, when asked why there were no Jewish referees in Argentina’s premier leagues, he said ‘Because Jews don’t like hard work.’ He is an anti-Semite. There is quite a bit of it in some areas down there in Argentina. The extreme right. It was an appalling thing to say from a Senior Vice President.
So he, Blatter and Warner could go as well, due to the investigation. This is all speculation. England might well ask for money, but they might say it is the wrong time, there is going to be massive unemployment every year, massive economic problems. And people don’t give bribes at the World Cup without having their arms being torn off. So I think we are going to a very new selection process. England could win. Obviously they could stage a World Cup, technically, we are good enough if you watch our football, we have the fans, the money, the highways, the stadiums, we could do it. So it is quite possible, but Jack Warner and his friends in Mexican television want to make a killing. But they are going to have to be careful. Is Mexico capable of staging another World Cup?
They’ve not done well on their previous one (1970 and 1986). So, if England have UEFA behind them, they take bribes at FIFA but they don’t always deliver, and none of the African members voted for South Africa. They took bribes all over the place and didn’t have to because Europe backed them. It’s wide open. It’s going to be fun watching it. I think England might get it. I have no doubts in the sense that we have lots of football fans here, they are passionate for the game, so as long as they don’t pay bribes, I hope we get it. And I don’t really care as long as nobody gets bribed.
Mr. Jennings, in behalf of Ahmed Bilal and everyone at Soccerlens, thank you very much for taking time from your busy schedule to contribute your excellent insight, observations about FIFA, journalism, and international football. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to speak to you today.
Thanks for the opportunity! Let’s do it again sometime!