Claiming that he was not responsible for the deaths of World Cup workers in Qatar and that his job is harder than the Prime Minister’s, FIFA president Sepp Blatter received a mixed reception this evening at the Oxford Union. The 77-year-old Swiss delivered an address with a stated aim to “challenge your perceptions of me and FIFA.”
Blatter and FIFA have been criticised heavily over issues such as corruption in the World Cup bidding process, rioting in Brazil over the cost of the 2014 tournament, and their laissez-faire attitude towards equality and workers’ rights in Qatar.
Entering the chamber to a mixture of boos and applause, Blatter summarised his career as the most powerful man in football and delivered a defence of a reputation which has come under fire from the British media.
Blatter argued that he did not deserve the reputation of “a ruthless parasite sucking the lifeblood out of the world and out of football! The Godfather of the FIFA gravy train! An out-of-touch, heartless schmoozer!”
Criticising how “all that unsung, good work FIFA is working to achieve through investing in football and communities around the world has been washed away in the thoughtless swipe of the pen”, Blatter went on to discuss racism in football, the women’s game, and the Qatar World Cup.
Although Blatter had refused to accept questions from the floor, his responses to pre-submitted questions on these topics had dozens of students walking out of the chamber.
Asked if FIFA is responsible for a projected 4000 worker deaths in Qatar, Blatter replied that “I’m not responsible for everything that is happening in the world”. He also argued that “boycott has never given us any solutions. You cannot run away from problems.”
With rioting in Brazil over the cost of World Cup hosting a recent memory, Blatter argued that the tournament was a “magical economic stimulus” for its host country.
Of FIFA’s transparency, Blatter said that “since 2002, we publish all our accounts”, and that, prior to its decision to introduce the technology, FIFA “was not against goal-line technology.”
The FIFA president raised laughs in the chamber at the end of the question-and-answer session by imitating “commander of the field” Cristiano Ronaldo with a theatrical strut. Blatter is in the country to attend the Football’s Association’s 150th anniversary dinner along with Michel Platini, England’s World Cup winners, and other football luminaries.