GENEVA: “Get out!”: world media on Thursday demanded that FIFA’s veteran president Joseph Blatter step down following the shock arrests of top officials in the organization suspected of corruption and fraud.
“He must go!” shouted the front page of the Le Matin daily in Switzerland, where FIFA is based and where its annual congress kicked off Thursday.
“Blatter has no more credibility,” it added, a day after seven football officials were swept up in a police sting at a luxury Zurich hotel.
Its compatriot Le Temps hailed the arrests as marking “an end to impunity” long enjoyed by international football’s main body.
US authorities said nine football officials were among 14 people facing up to 20 years in jail if found guilty in the long-running corruption case involving more than $150 million in bribes.
Blatter, who has headed FIFA for 17 years and is set to stand for reelection on Friday, was not on the list.
The US investigation said South African officials paid $10 million in bribes to host the 2010 tournament, while Swiss investigators raided FIFA’s Zurich headquarters as part of an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
The Times of South Africa slammed the “World Cup of fraud”, decrying that “even South Africa’s 2010 triumph” had been “blighted by FIFA corruption”.
In Britain, the Times handed FIFA a “Red Card” in an editorial warning that “Sepp Blatter is bringing world football into disrepute”.
“He must step down and open the way for sweeping changes at FIFA,” the paper said.
The Guardian meanwhile held its nose at “The stench of corruption”, while the Sun tabloid decried the role of “Sepptic Blatter”, lamenting that he had allowed the development of “a cancer at the very heart of the beautiful game”.
The Sun also suggested Britain should be handed the 2018 World Cup.
In Germany, the Bild tabloid front page simply called for Blatter to “Get out!”, while an article inside Europe’s most read paper referred to him as “The Godfather”, demanding “in the name of millions of football fans” that he step down.
Even if Blatter was not personally involved in the suspected corruption, the paper questioned whether he “is covering for a criminal association, which in turn is keeping him in power?”
France’s Liberation continued the mafia theme with “Fifa Nostra” emblazoned on its front page beside a mock-up of the cover of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather book featuring a football on a puppeteer’s strings.
In football-crazy Italy, the La Repubblica said “an earthquake has hit Blatter’s FIFA”.
“It’s official: the world of football is a world of thieves,” the paper wrote.
In The Netherlands, De Telegraaf splashed “FIFA the fraud” across its front page.
“The evidence seems overwhelming, thanks mainly to informants. Blatter is in fact at the head of a gang of fraudsters,” the paper said, calling for “a new start”, without Blatter.
Sweden’s paper of reference Dagens Nyheter meanwhile suggested Blatter might manage to weather the storm.
“There is no president of any federation that could survive such a scandal, but Sepp Blatter is not just any president, and FIFA is not just any federation,” it said.
In Australia, which sank some Aus$43 million (US$40 million) into its unsuccessful 2022 cup bid, media hailed the investigation that could get to the bottom of allegations bribery was behind the award to Qatar.
“Anything that brings on the long overdue cleaning out of the stables at FIFA is a good thing,” former Soccer Australia chief David Hill told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The paper’s football writer Michael Lynch described Blatter as “the man most closely associated with the culture of sleaze and corruption that has characterized the governing body of the world’s most popular sport”.
State media in Russia — locked in a standoff with the United States over Ukraine — offered a rare defence of FIFA, instead slamming the US investigation as a bid to wrench the 2018 World Cup from Russia’s grasp.
The arrest of the top officials made it “clear that the United States want to get full control over FIFA, which as an international and purely sporting organization has been acting independently as it should,” government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta wrote, denouncing a “coup” against Blatter after he refused to buckle to demands from US senators to scrap the 2018 World Cup in Russia.