Four more years?

FIFA president Sepp Blatter dropped the biggest hint yet that he will stand for another four-year term, during a speech to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) delegates in which he called for more World Cup places for Asian teams.

The 77-year-old, speaking at the AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur, was discussing his reform plans before he appeared to reveal he was not going to quit the presidency in two years time.

“This will be the last term of, not of office, the last term of the reform,” Blatter said.

The threat to carry on will come as a surprise to UEFA president Michel Platini, who until recently, had been regarded as Blatter’s anointed successor.

Platini must also have squirmed on hearing that newly appointed Asian football chief, Sheikh Salman, say he would support Blatter should he stand again.

“If he announces, of course,” Sheikh Salman told reporters.

“He has always been a supporter of Asian football and if he can fulfill and continue as a president of course I’ll support him.”

Blatter, aware that he would almost certainly lose European support if he stood again, dangled a rather large carrot in front of his new Asian friends.

“We have to start to see the access to the World Cup, the access to the World Cup should be a little bit better balanced,” he said.

“In 2014 in Brazil 32 teams, one has qualified from South America (Brazil as hosts) and then you have 13 teams from one of the continents, which is Europe, and possibly five more from South America,” Blatter said.

“If this happens then you have 19 out of 32, there is no chance to kick them out before one of them is in the semi-finals. This is the law of the numbers.”

There has been much talk of a new culture of transparency within FIFA in recent years, but very little desire to implement it. Indeed, when one looks at the organisation, nothing is quite so transparent as Blatter’s shameless courting of votes. 

Fighting a losing battle

On the day that the British press ‘exclusively’ reveal that he will be returning to Chelsea in the summer, Jose Mourinho has been trying to convince his critics in Spain that he has not been given enough credit for the work he has done at Real Madrid.

Good luck Jose! By comparison, Sisyphus had it easy.

If Mourinho leaves, he will have won one La Liga title and two King’s Cups should Real beat city rivals Atletico Madrid in the final in two weeks. While that may be enough for him, it comes nowhere near the expectations of the demanding Madrid press pack, who were prepared to tolerate Mourinho while the prospect of another European Cup was on the horizon, but now just want to see the back of him.

“The record league title is mine, you (journalists) will want to erase it but you won’t be able to,” said Mourinho.

“We won the King’s Cup for the first time in 20 years and you won’t be able to erase that either,” he added.

“The three Champions League semi-finals, which personally speaking do not leave me satisfied, can’t have been easy to achieve because with 18 coaches in 21 years (Real) only got to five semis.

“That’s the poor record of Mourinho: three years and three semi finals. For me it is a source of pride to have been the Real Madrid coach that ended Barcelona’s hegemony in Spain.”

If we overlook, for the time being, the minor detail that Madrid currently trail Barcelona by 11 points, then I suppose he did.

Whilst defending his record in Spain, Mourinho did find time to take another dig at Iker Casillas, the club captain and goalkeeper, who has remained on the substitutes bench despite recovering fully from a broken bone in his hand.

Real bought Diego Lopez from Sevilla as cover while Casillas was out and Mourinho has stuck with Lopez even though Casillas is fit again, prompting speculation the pair have fallen out.

“Problems exist when someone thinks he is above the rest,” Mourinho said.

“With players who feel like they are all at the same level I have no problem,” he added.

“I should have brought Diego Lopez in at the end of my first season here but perhaps I didn’t do enough.”

When Iker Casillas does finally pen his autobiography, the chapter covering the Mourinho years will be worth the price of the book alone.

Platini unconvinced by German domination

UEFA president Michel Platini refused to read too much into the all-Bundesliga Champions League final, saying it was too soon to draw conclusions from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund contesting the showpiece event.

After a week which saw Bayern and Borussia knock out Spanish duo Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, German football is enjoying its spell in the limelight, with pundits falling over themselves to lavish praise on the strength and competitiveness of the Bundesliga.

Platini, though, remains unconvinced, reminding journalists that talk of one country dominating European football is almost always premature and mistaken.

“Conclusions are made every year with respect to the finalists,” he said. “We said the same thing five years ago about English clubs when it was Man United and Chelsea in the final, and about Italian clubs when it was Milan against Juve.”

Conspiracy theorists have argued that it was the presence of two English clubs (Manchester United and Chelsea) in the 2008 final and the growing strength of the Premier League, that persuaded Platini to introduce his Financial Fair Play rules. If so, it certainly appears to have worked, as no English club reached this season’s quarter-finals. Ironically, the well-run financially solvent clubs of Germany, have been the immediate beneficiaries.

“I’ve never handed a (Champions League) trophy to a German club during my time,” continued Platini.

“It’s cyclical. It’s a difficult Cup to win and no team has won it two years a row, so I won’t draw any conclusions about the fact there are two German clubs in the final.”

Well connected

Amid continuing concerns about the speed at which Brazil is building its 2014 World Cup venues, some good news from the hosts comes with the announcement that supporters will enjoy high speed internet access while at the stadiums.

So, even if the stadiums aren’t finished in time, at least spectators will be able to tweet photos of the building work in real time. You can’t put a price on that kind of interactive supporter experience.

Each of the 12 stadiums hosting the tournament will have two separate 50-gigabyte networks connected to Brazil’s fiber optic backbone, Brazilian communications minister Paulo Bernardo told reporters.

“I doubt that the stadiums will use one third of the capacity that we are installing,” Bernardo said.

“Not even Mr Jerome Valcke will use up all that capacity, though he could if he makes a lot of explosive statements,” the minister said in reference to the general secretary of FIFA.

Valcke was briefly declared persona non grata by the Brazilian government last year for saying Brazil needed a “kick up the backside” to speed up preparations for the World Cup.

Goal of the day

Chelsea’s David Luiz curled in a wonderful effort from the edge of the area in Chelsea’s 3-1 Europa league win over Basle.

Quote of the day

“It would be pretty hard to reject Madrid. I do not know whether my future lies at Real Madrid. There was a moment in the past when I was close to Madrid, but I eventually joined Chelsea instead.”

Paris Saint-Germain boss Carlo Ancelotti admits he would find it difficult to turn down Real Madrid.

Nice work if you can get it

In the world of football management, nothing it seems, succeeds like failure, which is very good news if your name is David O’Leary, a man whose name has become a byword for failure.

O’Leary, the former Aston Villa and Leeds United manager, has been awarded £3.34m in compensation from Al Ahli FC following his sacking by the Dubai-based club.

The League Managers Association (LMA) can confirm that FIFA has announced that O’Leary has been successful in his claim against Al Ahli FC before the Players’ Status Committee.

O’Leary was dismissed one year into a three year fixed term. Having dismissed O’Leary, the club claimed that he had abandoned his job, despite the fact that club officials had openly stated to the media at the relevant time that there had been a dismissal.

Rookie mistake by the Dubai club, that was.

“It has taken a long time to deal with this matter but I am pleased that all issues have now been finalised,” said O’Leary in a statement issued through the League Managers Association.

“I hope my case provides reassurance to all managers and coaches working all over the world that there is a formal system in place that provides employment protection.”

It wasn’t so long ago that O’Leary, when in charge of Leeds United, was regarded as one of British football’s up-and-coming coaches, but a couple of wrong turns and he is already yesterday’s man. Still, that £3.34 million should keep the wolf from the door for a while yet.

Ethical commitment

Just to show that he it’s not all work, work, work, and that he does have a sense of humour, the newly-elected president of the Asian Football Confederation has promised to introduce an ethics committee.

Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa will make introducing the committee a top priority as the Bahraini attempts to bring about reform at the scandal-hit confederation.

“If there are any wrongdoings by some, there has to be a tool to have a watchdog on everybody including the president,” Sheikh Salman said.

“I think this can be done in the next two years and hopefully we will do it, by the end of the year we will have to have something up and running.

“It is disappointing that we haven’t created an ethics committee to look at these matters to have a proper mechanism to tackle these things and I think FIFA will support us on that.”

Ethics committees certainly seem all the rage within football governing bodies, although barring a few vague recommendations, nothing concrete ever gets implemented. But they serve an important purpose in that they allow football leaders to hind behind a veneer of transparency, while keeping their murky deals well hidden.

Moving the goal posts

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke who, as mentioned earlier, said Brazil needed a “kick up the backside” to get their World Cup preparations back on track, is being a little bit more flexible with Qatar.

The hosts for the 2022 World Cup have been told that they can stage the tournament in eight stadiums, despite the 12-venue plan required when bidding.

Valcke tells The Associated Press that ongoing talks with Qatar ”will be pragmatic and we will find the right number.”

I presume this is what Valcke had in mind when he revealed last month that “less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup“. In effect, FIFA finds it easier to do business with countries who do not have electorates to answer to.

Valcke says he doesn’t ”see the interest for Qatar to have 12” given the country’s size. Given its size it doesn’t need 10 either, but the bidding process was never about the country best suited to host a World Cup.

FIFA requires at least eight for the 64-match tournament, and future hosts Brazil and Russia opted for 12. No country has had fewer than 10 venues and in 2002, Japan/South Korea had 20 between them.

Bility verdict

The good news with regard to football administrators just doesn’t stop. The president of Liberia’s football association, Musa Bility, has been banned from all football activities for six months for using confidential Confederation of African Football (CAF) documents without permission, CAF have announced.

The documents were executive committee minutes, but no further details of the decision were provided by CAF’s disciplinary committee. So much for transparency. Perhaps, they too could set up an Ethics committee to investigate what happened.

A $10,000 fine was also imposed on the Liberia Football Association, a CAF statement said.

Earlier this year, Bility led an unsuccessful bid to overturn a change to CAF election rules that ensured long serving African football leader Issa Hayatou recently won another term as CAF president.

Last September, a specially convened CAF Congress passed new election rules that allow only the organisation’s executive committee members with full voting rights to stand for the presidency, a thinly veiled effort to eliminate Hayatou’s rival Jacques Anouma from March’s election.

Bility led a legal challenge to those changes but had his case rejected by the Swiss-based Court for Arbitration in Sport.

He won’t be making that mistake again.

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