Should Sepp Blatter not heed calls to step down in the wake of the ‘World Cup of Fraud’, India’s vote in the Fifa presidential elections in Zurich on Friday will likely go to him.
A day after an FBI probe into corruption led to the arrest of seven top football officials and prompted a Swiss investigation into bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, an All India Football Federation (AIFF) official said most of Fifa’s 209 members were likely to vote Blatter to a fifth term as president.
The Asian Football Confed-eration also backed Blatter in a statement: “The AFC reiterates its decision taken at the AFC congress in Sao Paulo in 2014, endorsed at congresses in Melbourne and Manama in 2015, to support Fifa president Joseph S Blatter.”
This despite European football chief Michel Platini saying a “very, very, very large majority” of the 54 European nations would back Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, the Fifa vice-president who is the only challenger to Blatter.
While predicting elections can be dodgy, for India, Blatter’s art of giving is likely to matter more than the allegations of corruption. All member associations got $750,000 (around Rs 4.8 crore) as a percentage of profits from the 2014 World Cup. This was started in 2006 under Blatter’s reign and the amount went up significantly last year — unconfirmed reports said it was less than $500,000 (Rs 3.1 crore) in 2006 and 2010.
This is over and above the annual grant of $250,000 (Rs 1.5 crore) each country gets. This year, $300,000 (Rs 1.9 crore) will also be given to countries participating in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. India’s campaign starts in Bangalore against Oman on June 11.
Under Blatter, Fifa’s cash reserves have grown to $1.5 billion (Rs 9,572 crore).
For India, there’s more. It’s got the 2017 under-17 World Cup, an event Fifa hopes will kickstart a football revolution in India.
Then there’s the Win In India With India programme, started in 2010 and ending this year, that gave India eight artificial pitches and Mumbai’s Cooperage Ground a refurbished stadium with lights.
It was under the Fifa Goal Project that AIFF’s headquarters in Dwarka and the offices of the Sikkim football association were built. The Goal Project also supports AIFF’s academy in Goa. A programme to support development in six-seven states, the ones that will host the under-17 tournament in 2017, is scheduled to roll out soon.
So, while there’s nothing official about India’s stand, it is unlikely to be against the official candidate.