The media in Sepp Blatter’s homeland believe that the 79-year-old’s reign at the world football governing body FIFA may finally be coming to an end following his suspension, and that FIFA has big lessons to learn from the saga.
Blatter’s name was all over Swiss newspapers after he was suspended from FIFA for 90 days on Thursday, as Swiss authorities investigate him amid a widening corruption scandal. The FIFA ethics committee also handed a 90-day suspension to Blatter's possible successor, UEFA chief Michel Platini, and to FIFA's secretary general, Jerome Valcke, who had already been put on leave.
Blatter’s lawyer announced early on Friday morning that Blatter would be appealing the decision. FIFA announced on Friday night that its executive meeting would hold an emergency session on October 20 to discuss whether to postpone the presidential election.
The election to succeed Blatter is now set for February 26. A crisis meeting of all 54 members of UEFA is scheduled for next week at its Swiss headquarters in Nyon.
The Swiss media were sure that Blatter’s reign was over. “The era of the brotherly kiss has come to an end,” was the title of the Tages-Anzeiger’s opinion piece.
The German-language newspaper’s editor-in-chief said that Blatter’s arrogance had made him unpopular even in the Swiss media and had overshadowed “the patriotic pride” of having a countryman at the top of football.
“The man from the Valais is practiced at bouncing back in his job, but now the burden is too heavy even for his shoulders. Whether in the end he faces any kind of criminal charge is less important than the lessons that world football's governing body has learned from this case: corruption, favoritism and personality cults have become outdated in democratic countries – and this is also the case for a sports association with a worldwide reach,” the Tages-Anzeiger observed.
The German-language Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) said that the “broken” FIFA system was now evident for everyone to see. It called the saga “film-like” and said it looked like Blatter was taking his potential successor, Platini, with him in his downfall.
The level of FIFA’s dysfunction is evidenced by the fact that “very dubious” people were meant to keep it running, the NZZ said, observing that “the call to clean up FIFA is becoming louder”.
But the Zurich-based paper doubted whether such a cleanup would be possible as it needed goodwill from the FIFA executive committee and a three-quarters majority from its congress, where many members consider their leader’s failings a “harmless crime”.
The Blick tabloid ran the headline “Blatter is banned from FIFA’s buildings”. He’ll now be going for walks in his home region, it said, quoting a close advisor. He won’t be resigning, according to the newspaper, just spending 90 days on the sidelines, which happens to even the “best players”. “The question remains, will Blatter ever return to the field?” the Blick wondered.
For the French-language Le Temps newspaper, a return by Blatter is not possible, as it believes he “has messed up his exit”.
Platini won’t be FIFA’s saviour because even if he “didn’t have too much to reproach himself with” he has been “too accommodating about what has been happening at FIFA”.
A deep clean is needed, one that not only changes the men in charge, but the whole system, according to Le Temps.
FIFA also needs to relearn modesty, the paper reckoned.
“It’s not football – it doesn’t organise matches, train players. It doesn’t even have the power, alone, to change the rules. Under the reign of Sepp Blatter, who dreamed of the Nobel Peace Prize, this body only really had the sole task of attributing the World Cup every four years. But it thought of itself as the centre of the world. It is time to burst this balloon."