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Complete archive of Robert Wagman's It Seems to Me.

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It Seems To Me . . .

FIFA president Blatter a big loser with Germany getting 2006 World Cup.

By Robert Wagman

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Friday, July 7, 2000) -- South Africa might have lost its bid to host the 2006 World Cup, but the big loser in the award battle between Germany and the South Africans may well be Sepp Blatter, president of world governing body FIFA.

Blatter went all out to win the bid for Africa, all but promising he would deliver the World Cup to Africa for the first time. It was a major political IOU after the African nations had backed him in his 31-vote victory over Lennart Johansson, president of Europe’s governing body UEFA at the FIFA Congress in Paris on the eve of the World Cup in 1998.

In the end, Blatter could not deliver. Moreover, according to reports coming out of Zurich, South Africa actually might have lost because of Blatter's support.

Here the story gets complicated, going back to the turbulent FIFA General Congress held in Los Angeles just before the Women's World Cup final last summer. Asian countries had been guaranteed four places in the World Cup field. In 2002, South Korea and Japan as co-hosts will each automatically join the field. The Asian Football Confederation wanted three additional spots for a total of five. The extra place would have had to come from some other federation, and all said no.

Blatter backed the other federations and the Asian request was denied. The Asian representatives walked out of the meeting. The matter was finally resolved in a deal brokered by Johansson. The Asian Confederation was offered a "half place" in the tournament with the winner of a playoff between an Asian team and a European team gaining the final spot in the field.

Asia has four representatives on the current executive committee and they proved to have long memories. The four voted in a block for the country supported by UEFA and Johansson -- Germany.

In the final minutes of the vote it came down to a decision by the delegate from New Zealand, Charles Dempsey. Dempsey had been committed to England, but when it withdrew after the third round, many including the South Africans assumed he would throw his vote to Africa. But in doing so he would have tied the vote 12-12 on the 24-member committee and would have given the tie-breaking vote to Blatter.

The Asians persuaded Dempsey to abstain instead. Traditionally New Zealand has close ties to the Asian Confederation.

So in the final analysis, Blatter was more the loser than South Africa. The final vote turned into something of a referendum on his presidency. He now has two years to try to salvage things. He now has an executive committee that is deeply divided, and it is an open question whether he can survive a reelection vote in 2002.

Johansson, who will be 72 by then, will not run against Blatter again. In fact, he is widely expected to retire as UEFA president at its next Congress in his home city of Stockholm earlier in the summer of 2002.

Blatter’s likely opponents will be Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, the current president of the African Confederation CAF, Mong-Joon Chung, the highly influential South Korean, or even Alan Rothenburg, the head of the United States Soccer Federation when it put on the highly-successful World Cup in 1994.

Actually there are enough other losers in this vote to go around. Brazil and South America had supported South Africa's bid in exchange for a promise from the Africans to support a renewed bid by Brazil in 2010. Brazil soccer confederation (CBF) president Ricardo Teixeira said when Brazil pulled out that South Africa would emerge victorious thanks to the votes which would have gone to his own country.

Now Brazil is faced with the prospect of having to face South Africa in bidding for 2010. The Europeans and the Asians are likely to back South Africa in payback for this year's voting. It could be a long time before Brazil hosts.

There is also a schism within UEFA as a result of the vote. It would be a classic understatement to say England is unhappy with Johansson throwing his and the European Federation's weight behind Germany's bid. In the end the only votes England got from within UEFA were its own and Scotland's. The reverberations of Thursday's decision to award the 2006 finals to Germany will be felt for a long time to come in soccer's corridors of power.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at

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