Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, will on the 29th May, see whether his shaky 17-year tenure as President will finally come to an end. Shrouded in corruption and election fixing scandals, the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals soon became the symbol of the failings at the very top of world football.
And this fact may just be the ammunition needed by the other presidential candidates to loosen Blatter’s command of the presidency. This week saw the proposed dates of November and December for the 2022 World Cup Finals move closer to an actuality. Whether or not this will prove to be a success remains to be seen, but with the lingering doubts of election fixing in attaining the finals and with the major upheaval of changing the time frame, the tournament is already becoming the symbol of everything awry within football’s senior body.
This is the very blood that the three men opposing Blatter needed to smell. The nations that will be affected most from the rescheduling will be those within Europe whose domestic seasons span the winter period. These all lie under the jurisdiction of UEFA, which, as arguably the most powerful of the confederations under FIFA, is supporting the campaigns of the triumvirate opposing him.
Two candidates stem from a European background. Luis Figo, the former Portuguese captain, and the head of the Dutch FA, Michael van Praag, will have a widespread backing unless people can be convinced that rescheduling Qatar 2022 will not only be the backlash from poor choices and corruption.
The third candidate, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, currently vice-president of Fifa, has spoken out about the corruption within FIFA and was the first to advocate a full release of the report after the tournament fixing scandal. It would be hard to imagine that a FIFA, under Bin al-Hussein, could be anything less than transparent compared to the current system.
What stands is that even if Qatar’s World Cup bid wass simply down to poor planning, and not a lingering sinister element, then FIFA’s leadership should still be under a certain scrutiny. Even if given this benefit of the doubt it is hard to separate Blatter from notions of his wrong doing. Whilst campaigning in Equatorial Guinea, between signing a memorandum of understanding with the African Football Confederation for future development, he was pictured glad-handing Africa’s longest standing dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
It is this melding of obscure planning and potential for corruption that will spearhead any campaign that runs against Blatter. However we cannot ignore the fact that this is a man who has maintained the FIFA presidency longer that any one else; he knows what must be done to ensure his seat. It is shocking then, but not surprising, that bookmakers hold him as favorite to retain the presidency.
The point is that for the first time since the nineties there now stands a range of candidates all capable of toppling Blatter. It was always going to be a huge risk in isolating UEFA, and as we edge closer to the confirmation of a Winter World Cup, for Blatter’s FIFA, it should prove fatal.