Just when you think Sepp Blatter has revealed the full extent of his kooky theories and self-centered worldview, he opens his mouth again and wows you with even more crazy talk. In his newest interview, Blatter elucidates his belief that the entire FIFA scandal was a covert ploy by Michel Platini and, independently, the U.S. to bring him down out of little more than personal animus.
Blatter granted the interview, as he so often does now, to an outlet he (rightly) suspected would be more amenable to his ... peculiar point of view; this time, it was TASS, a government-owned Russian news agency. (We know how mutually beneficial his chummy relationship with Russia has been of late.)
In the wide-ranging conversation, Blatter takes shots at a number of his political enemies. Let’s start with his chief target, the European soccer confederation UEFA and its president, Michel Platini. After an opening question about the U.S. Justice Department’s arrests that kicked off festivities, Blatter goes straight to his European tormentors:
Did you feel at once that you became the primary target of this attack?
I became the primary target of the attack because since three years already, and specifically after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the UEFA did not want me as the president. It was a conducted attack on the FIFA president. But the other confederations, they were with me. Only UEFA tried to bring me away. They did not succeed. Even with this tsunami I was reelected as president. And who has been involved in this attacking situation towards the FIFA president? Politics. The European Union.
Not only does Blatter consider all the talk of rampant bribery and criminal mismanagement of millions of dollars and systemic corruption subterfuge for the real issue—that UEFA wanted him out of office—the origin, in Blatter’s mind, all comes from personal beef with Platini:
But why is your figure at the center of this attack? Is this about money, influence or politics?
Because at the beginning it was only a personal attack. It was Platini against me.
Why does Platini dislike you? You probably had a more or less reasonable relationship with each other some years ago. And then suddenly what went wrong?
You will have to ask him and we will know. Because he wanted to be FIFA president. But he had not the courage to go as the president. And now we are in such a situation in football. But FIFA is working well. [...] Since I became president of FIFA, we have made FIFA a big commercial company. And this naturally provokes envy and jealousy.
So you think the recent crisis is artificial?
I think this crisis, and this is also the idea of my lawyers, has nothing to do with any criminal activity. Has nothing to do. So it was by perception. And the perception is given by whom? If you open the newspapers, if you open the television, every day it said – Blatter must go. The victim of all that finally is Platini.
Blatter admits, though, that Platini’s green eyes (I have not seen and hope to never see the FIFA president without a shirt on, but I would not be surprised if a picture of his exposed stomach revealed a tattoo of the title of Fat Joe’s second album scrawled across it) alone would not be enough to bring about all this. For that, only an especially powerful, particularly aggrieved agent could cut off the head, legs, and arms of FIFA in but a few quick motions. In that role, Blatter casts America:
So Platini does not like you and that is why he started it.
Yeah, he started it, but then it became politics. And when it is in politics, it is not any longer Platini against me. It is then those, who have lost the World Cup. England against Russia. They lost the World Cup. And the USA lost the World Cup against Qatar. But you cannot destroy FIFA. FIFA is not the Swiss bank. FIFA is not a commercial company. So, what they have done together with the Swiss, they have created this attack towards FIFA and the president of FIFA. And I am sure that at the beginning when UEFA said they don’t want me, they didn’t know that finally it came out with such a political importance.
And you are from TASS and you know what are the problems between your country and the US. The FIFA World Cup or the FIFA president is a ball in the big political power game.
Possibly the most damning quote in the interview Blatter willingly offers up in an oddly casual way, as if he doesn’t quite see the implication of his words. According to him, prior to the simultaneous vote to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the executive committee had already settled on Russia and the U.S. as hosts for the respective editions. Then, something changed:
Do you think it was a mistake to simultaneously hold the elections of both 2018 and 2022 World Cups in 2010?
In 2010 we had a discussion of the World Cup and then we went to a double decision. For the World Cups it was agreed that we go to Russia because it’s never been in Russia, eastern Europe, and for 2022 we go back to America. And so we will have the World Cup in the two biggest political powers. And everything was good until the moment when Sarkozy came in a meeting with the crown prince of Qatar, who is now the ruler of Qatar (Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani). And at a lunch afterwards with Mr. Platini he said it would be good to go to Qatar. And this has changed all pattern. There was an election by secret ballot. Four votes from Europe went away from the USA and so the result was fourteen to eight. If you put the four votes, it would have been twelve to ten. If the USA was given the World Cup, we would only speak about the wonderful World Cup 2018 in Russia and we would not speak about any problems at FIFA.
It’s wild that Blatter apparently didn’t notice how alarming his statement would sound to those of us still not totally accustomed to FIFA’s twisted modus operandi. So not only were the World Cup votes to some degree fixed beforehand, that nefarious meeting between Platini, Al Thani, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy really was as shady as everyone had long assumed; and not only that, but from that meeting four voters—whose preferences for America’s hosting bid were already known by Blatter before the purportedly “secret” ballot—mysteriously switched sides and went with Qatar instead. It’s obvious that Blatter intended those remarks to insinuate some kind of hanky panky if not outright bribery on the parts of Platini and the Qataris, but the subtler aspects of the vote’s predetermined nature hit just as hard upon him and the FIFA he created.
These are just some of the highlights from the interview, and you should check out the whole thing if you’re as fascinated by a mind warped by power and paranoia as I am. Some quick hits: he refers to the DoJ’s attempts to lock up the criminals in FIFA as “the American takeover of FIFA”; jabs at England and the British press’s calls to strip Russia of the World Cup by claiming it all stems from their failure to beat out the Russians for hosting rights, referring to the Brits as “bad losers”; and decries the treatment he’s received in his native Switzerland, which he blames on regional prejudice against the small area he hails from. (“[S]ome of the people here think those coming from the mountains eat with their fingers. Primitive.”)
He closes on a word of advice that he would give to his eventual successor as the association’s president: “I’ll tell him: don’t forget that FIFA is the most valuable institution in the world.” With the mountains of evidence of the riches basically everyone with even a tangential relationship with soccer’s governing bodies has extracted, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
Photo via Getty