x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Boot Blatter out of football? The president isn't perfect, but his domain is better for his presence.

Boot Sepp Blatter out of football? The Fifa president isn't perfect, but his domain is better for his presence.

When England's £15 million (Dh89m) bid to host the 2018 World Cup delivered just a single vote there was a convenient scapegoat. The same convenient scapegoat chased around the pages and television studios of an oft inward looking English media whenever international football refuses to bend to its will. Step forward Sepp Blatter, the man sometimes regarded as the root of all evil in the planet's most popular sport.

Fifa's president was clearly biased against an English bid so intrinsically superior no right thinking person would have wanted to host a World Cup elsewhere - let alone Russia. Blatter's efforts to take the greatest of all sports tournaments around the planet, one that has delivered joyous, attitude changing festivals in South Africa, South Korea and Japan, were illogical. The organisation he has headed for the last 13 years, self serving and corrupt. His stewardship of the game replete with bizarre decision making.

England's Football Association, we soon learned, was desperate to see Blatter deposed as Fifa president. An interesting stance from a heavily indebted organisation that has gone through five chief executives and three chairmen in the past 10 years, constructing the most expensive stadium in the history of football complete with a problematic pitch and a roof that doesn't work.

Blatter is certainly no saint, providing well for himself from his three-and-a-half decades as a Fifa employee. Yet judge him on how football has developed during his presidency and the critical caricature turns ludicrous.

The game has never been more popular or successful. The hegemony of Europe and South America has been significantly reduced with African and Asian teams capable of matching all but the very best. Economically, its revenues have hugely increased and a far greater percentage of those finances go to the players and coaches who make the game great.

And, above all of these pluses, it's better to watch because of the changes FIFA's pernicious president has brought to the game. Amid great resistance, Blatter improved the rules to favour open, attacking play. A relaxed offside rule frustrated conservative coaches and made it easier score goals. Cynically aggressive tacklers had their ability to cripple the most skilful players limited by an ongoing effort to outlaw dangerous challenges. It is no coincidence that ball caressing geniuses such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Xavi have emerged as football predominant forces. Twenty years ago, they'd have been kicked out of the game.

Boot Blatter out of football? The president isn't perfect, but his domain is better for his presence.

 

sports@thenational.ae