BerlinFIFA, the multi-tentacled murky organization that has held the world of soccer in a firm grip, had its head cut off this week. Sepp Blatter, its 79-year-old president who appeared invincible, resigned late Tuesday just four days after declaring only he could lead FIFA.
On Wednesday, Interpol, the international policing organization, issued red notices, or international wanted persons alert, for six soccer officials. Two of them are former FIFA executive committee members: Jack Warner, one time head of the Americas confederation; and Nicolás Leoz, the former head of Conmebol, the South American confederation. The four other executives have links to Argentina and Brazil.
The red notices are Interpol’s way of informing countries that an arrest warrant has been issued in one of its member countries, and that it is seeking to locate and arrest the people named.The notices also signal continued pressure by U.S. authorities on FIFA and Mr. Blatter.
Until now, Mr. Blatter has shown an amazing ability to cling to power, but he met his match in Loretta Lynch, the newly appointed attorney general who decided to make soccer corruption her first big target. In a hastily convened press conference, a few hours after the New York Times reported that his closest lieutenant, Jerome Valcke, had signed off a $10 million, or €9.07 million, payment at the heart of the U.S. investigation into corruption, Mr. Blatter resigned.
ABC News, the New York Times and Reuters are all quoting anonymous officials saying U.S. authorities including the FBI are now investigating Mr. Blatter himself. No one yet fully knows what prompted Mr. Blatter to resign so suddenly. One of his advisers told Handelsblatt that he only learned of Mr. Blatter’s decision to resign one hour before his resignation was announced.
“Although I have a mandate from the FIFA members, I did not feel that I have a mandate from the entire football world," he said. His reasoning is unconvincing. Mr. Blatter has known for years that he does not have the support of the entire world of football. Countries in northern Europe, mainly Germany and the United Kingdom, have been attacking him for years. Wolfgang Niersbach, president of the German Football Association the DFB, said in a press conference that Mr. Blatter’s decision resign was “absolutely right, and overdue.” What has now changed is the investigation in the United States.
Testimony by a former FIFA executive-turned whistleblower Chuck Blazer could be made public on Wednesday. Mr. Blazer was the man who essentially brought soccer to American audiences, signing the first television contracts. He was well known for taking a cut of the deals he helped secure, but his downfall came only when U.S authorities came after him for not paying taxes on some of his earnings.