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Opinion

Opinion: Different day, same story

Ongoing support from UEFA for its president, Michel Platini, and FIFA's appointment of Issa Hayatou, accused of corruption, as its president has further tarnished football's reputation, says DW's Joscha Weber.

Sometimes a comparison can be helpful in demonstrating the scope of a set of facts. Since 2006, one of the biggest corporate corruption scandals in history has unfolded.

It has come to light that major German corporation Siemens bribed business partners around the world, hoarded billions in secret slush funds and plowed a lot of money into a special sort of landscaping. As a result, Siemens boss Klaus Kleinfeld had to go - and many other executives followed. It would have been unthinkable and unacceptable for Kleinfeld's deputy, who was also implicated in the case, to have taken charge of the company shortly after the scandal. In football, it's a different story.

Joscha Weber

DW's Joscha Weber

Issa Hayatou has taken over, at least on a temporary basis, as the head of FIFA. Former President Sepp Blatter was recently handed a 90-day suspension by world soccer's governing body. The 69-year-old is a loyal Blatter devotee, was a central pillar of his system and always a reliable deliverer of votes for his former boss. With stunning regularity, all of Africa's 54 votes went to Blatter, and Hayatou openly bragged about it. The fact that at the same time a lot of "development" aid flowed from FIFA to the continent, particularly when an election loomed, was certainly no coincidence.

And if that's not enough, following an investigation into the scandal over illicit payments made by the Swiss marketing firm International Sports and Leisure (ISL) to sports executives in 2001, a Swiss court reached the conclusion that Hayatou had accepted 24,700 Swiss francs (22,800 euros/$25,960) in bribes. And in an investigative report broadcast by German public television station ARD in May, the former chief spokesperson for the committee that organized Qatar's bid for the 2022 World Cup, Phaedra Almajid, claimed that Haytou, then FIFA deputy president, had been paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar's bid, along with two other top executives.

Hayatou is Blatter's system

And now FIFA has actually made this man its new leader until the presidential election in February? Unfortunately, this is no joke. Hayatou is Blatter's system. He supported it, he has been accused of corruption - and now he is supposed to reform FIFA? Anybody who believes this must believe in Santa Claus.

FIFA, now in the worst crisis of credibility in its history, is attempting to carry on, "business as usual." After all, until now, all involved were profiting from it. FIFA is now more profitable than ever. On the other hand, its reputation has never been worse. Change or even reform from within are and will remain illusionary.

The same seems to be the case at UEFA. After a crisis meeting, European football's governing body came out in support of its tarnished (still) President Michel Platini. The 54 national football associations that make up UEFA stood as one behind Platini, insisting that in the face of the corruption allegations against him, he must receive "a fair trial."

At first glance this appears to be right and understandable. But should one unconditionally support a sporting executive accused of corruption worth millions, while these serious accusations are out there? For once again, Platini was not able to answer the question as to why he was paid 2 million euros by Blatter for nebulous services rendered nine years ago. As long as Platini doesn't answer this question, he doesn't deserve support.

DFB must take a stand

And not from Germany's football association (DFB), either. DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach is a close confidant of Platini and recently defended his friend in the German paper "Die Zeit" with the sparse words: "Nothing has been proven."

The biggest sporting association in the world by membership would do well not to just cultivate sports-political cronyism and play for time. Now is the time for action. The credibility of world football is at stake. This is the greatest asset of the world's most popular sport - not the money it collects. Anyone who sees this differently should carry on with business as usual.

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