By Paul Radford
For a number of years in the 1990s, I covered the activities of FIFA for Reuters and interviewed the then general secretary Sepp Blatter on a number of occasions.
From a journalist’s point of view, he was an excellent interviewee, always affable and lively, and, most importantly, he always provided you with “a story”, something interesting he had never said before.
I remember asking him in 1997 or early in 1998 about speculation that he might stand for FIFA president when the then incumbent Joao Havelange retired after the 1998 World Cup.
He told me categorically that he would never stand for FIFA president — and I believed him.
His motto at the time was “one term only”.
Somehow he planted the idea in my head that it would be illogical for him to progress from his role as a well paid executive, in which he wielded considerable power, to an honorary, unpaid figurehead position.
Well he certainly fooled me — and many others.
Not only did he stand and win; one of his first acts as the new president was to convert the role into a paid position. He also ensured that he was the only one wielding effective power at FIFA, reducing the influence of the general secretaries who succeeded him.
His motto at the time was “one term only”. That evolved into “one more term only” at every subsequent election.
On Friday he is standing for his fifth term at the age of 79, 17 years after taking over the top job in world football.