So, farewell then, Sepp Blatter. We’ve known that the old boy will be leaving his gig as the major domo of Fifa for quite some time, but the election of his successor on Friday actually makes it pretty real. He’s actually, genuinely, really going. I know. If you’d like to take a moment to compose yourselves, feel free.
While the football world will struggle on and the actual world will continue to turn, the question that nobody seems to be asking (perhaps with good reason) is: What now for Sepp? What is he going to do after he vacates the Fifa throne, presumably leaving it slightly uncomfortably warm for the next bloke?
It’s very easy to feel little/no sympathy for Blatter because, well, it’s very easy to. But it’s probably useful to remember every now and then that this is a man who’ll be 80 in a few weeks, undergoing what is presumably a pretty significant period of stress. Granted, it’s largely self-inflicted stress, but the sight of him just before Christmas shambling in front of the cameras, plaster under his eye and looking exactly what he is – a frail old man – was enough to make you pause, at least.
He’s also leaving the organisation for whom he’s worked for over half of his life. If there’s a point at which somebody becomes institutionalised, a definite time period after which one can no longer cope outside the walls that house you, then Blatter almost certainly passed it some time ago. Brooks Hadlin was in Shawshank prison for 50 years; Blatter has been working at Fifa for 44. One hopes Blatter isn’t released to a halfway house, and that Jake is OK.
It’s easy to imagine Blatter as the sort of bloke who, despite no longer working at Fifa, will just start showing up anyway, like David Brent rocking up to Wernham Hogg with a dog in tow, joshingly calling Jerome Valcke to ask “if they’ve sacked you yet”, before belatedly realising “oh, they did sack him”. At some point someone will have a rather awkward word, and HR will quietly cancel his security pass. Sepp will try using the pass once, but will slip away without making a fuss when it doesn’t work. A man must maintain his dignity, after all.
Speaking of which, Blatter gave an interview to the Times this week in which he basically wrote off all the bad stuff that had gone down on his watch as either nothing to do with him, or as admin errors, which was pretty enjoyable. When most people make an admin error they forget to renew their TV license. When Sepp and Fifa do it millions of dollars mysteriously appear in the bank account of someone who voted for him. Sure, it’s careless, but we’ve all been there.
He also felt the need to tell us the following: “I was even treating well all my ex-girlfriends. It’s true. They defend me. One I was married to only for a few months and she is really defending me.” This inspired a number of thoughts. Firstly, and of course most troublingly, was the idea of Sepp engaged in intimate physical congress, which is even more unpleasant if you, like your correspondent, read it while eating a bowl of porridge. Secondly, that he felt the need to not only underline that he has enjoyed intimate physical congress with not just one but upwards of two women. Thirdly that he had become the punchline to that old Chris Rock bit about people asking to be praised for stuff you’re supposed to do. Sepp, mate, you don’t get a cookie and a pat on the back just for not being a dick to your exes – this is basic stuff.
It was also pointed out that the current lucky lady enjoying the undoubted fire of Sepp’s passion is some 28 years his junior, and this was the moment where resistance to the ever-obvious idea of comparing an absurd man to Alan Partridge was finally broken. Now he no longer works at Fifa, to whom will he loudly yet casually mention he has a girlfriend, and that she’s much younger than him? You can be absolutely sure that Sepp offers marks out of ten if his partner cooks him a full English breakfast.
So what now? It seems a chunk of his new free time will be taken up helping with a book about him, called (and I promise I’m not making this up) ‘Sepp Blatter: Mission Football’, which will be written not by him but by his ‘spokesman’, Thomas Renggli.
“Despite the success, Blatter repeatedly had to put up with harsh reviews and prejudices,” said the blurb for the book, suggesting it will not exactly be a tome of light and charming anecdotes about life in Zurich. “In this richly illustrated book…Sepp Blatter tells how he learned to deal with the hostility,” continues the bumf. No word yet on whether the phrase ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’ will appear in its pages.
Alternative suggestions for him to fill his time might include going back to his roots and re-taking his old position as president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, continuing to bemoan the relentless march of the hold-up stockings/tights. He might just watch ‘United Passions’ on a loop, chuckling away at its genius, like the dad of the neighbour in American Beauty did with his old army training tape. He could continue to lobby for the Nobel Peace Prize that he’s been sniffing around for all these years; granted, it’s unlikely they will consider a man currently being investigated by the FBI, but one can only dream. Perhaps he might launch a two-man show with Tim Lovejoy in which they debate which of the two has influenced the game more. Or maybe a similar effort with David Beckham, in which Sepp could offer his side of the Fifa story while Becksy just stands there looking delightful in a suit.
Of course, all of these are based on the assumption that he will actually leave, and walk away from Fifa without a peep of an argument. That’s something of a bold assumption, particularly given the reduction of his ban from all football to a mere six years, so don’t be surprised if this turns out not to be the last we see of the old boy.