Blatter faces challenges ahead

Sepp Blatter has 100 days to steer Fifa out of its troubles Keystone

As Fifa head Sepp Blatter prepares to hand over the World Cup trophy to either Brazil or Germany, the task of restoring confidence in football's governing body looms.

This content was published on June 29, 2002

But once the dust settles on what has been a surprising competition, Blatter will have 100 days to show the world that Fifa is back on form, following a stormy year for the organisation.

Fifa has been in crisis for months. It started with the financial collapse of its marketing partner ISMM last year and ended with accusations of corruption from the secretary-general Michel Zen-Ruffinen. But despite the infighting, Blatter was re-elected as president at the end of May with a massive majority.

The 2002 World Cup has also been beset by accusations of unfair refereeing and criticism of players' packed domestic schedules affecting their performances in the global competition.

Following's Turkey win over South Korea and with just hours to go to until the World Cup final in Yokohama, Japan, Blatter took some time out to speak to swissinfo about the World Cup and the challenges ahead for Fifa.

Q:What's your general impression of the 2002 World Cup?

A: It certainly hasn't been the most spectacular World Cup to date, but without doubt it has been the most interesting. This is because it's been played in Asia, between two nations who have forged closer ties as a result. You can see that just by the atmosphere in the stadiums and by the number of surprises, which have punctuated the competition. I have always said there would be surprises but not any miracles. My predictions have come true [with even more surprising teams qualifying for the later rounds] but in the end, the final is between two great footballing nations, Brazil and Germany.

Q: Many strong footballing nations such as France, Italy and Spain were eliminated very early on. Do you think this was because the players were physically tired from all the matches they'd played in their domestic leagues?

A: Fifa needs to look into the match calendar of the European Championships, but really it is up to the individual nations to find a solution. For example, Fifa recommends that every league should not have more than 16 teams in it -
but in England, Spain and France the premier league has 20 teams in it.

At the end of the day, those who complain about the players not being ready for the World Cup are the ones who are responsible [for the players' lack of fitness]. They've known about the World Cup dates for more than two years, they should adapt their calendars themselves.

Q: You've stepped in on a number of occasions because of accusations of unfair refereeing. What is Fifa planning to do about it?

A: The refereeing errors are going to be analysed and not only by the referee commission. We're looking for solutions, for example maybe we'll introduce another referee to stand behind the goal, or maybe we'll go back to only using referees and linesmen who've worked together for a minimum of two years.

Out of all the mistakes made in the matches, only ten per cent have been really bad, but in these cases they have led to some of the big teams being eliminated.

Q: Since last week, Michel Zen-Ruffinen is no longer Fifa's secretary-general, so do you think now the organisation can get back to normal?

A: As president, I feel that [restoring order] is my job. On Friday I asked the Fifa committee in Tokyo to give me 100 days breathing space so that I can put together proposals about how I intend to restore order in the secretary-general's office. But despite the damage done to Fifa and to me, we are still one big family and after all I was re-elected as president by more than 70 per cent of our members.

by Gabriel Nadav in Tokyo translated by Sally Mules

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