′Germany needs to wake up from its FIFA coma′ | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 03.06.2015
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'Germany needs to wake up from its FIFA coma'

How will things continue after Sepp Blatter's resignation? Former FIFA press and marketing boss Guido Tognoni speaks to DW about the FIFA president's decision to step down, and the role of Europe in world football.

DW: Mr Tognoni, Sepp Blatter has now said he intends to resign as FIFA president. Did the timing of his decision surprise you?

Guido Tognoni: It surprised not only me, but everyone around the world. It was just days after the FIFA vote, that he won. You couldn't really predict that. I think people are still confused. We will have to see how football can organize itself again after this event.

You know Sepp Blatter personally, from years of working together. What do you think motivated him to make this decision?

I think it was the external pressure. It wasn't just from the football world, because various associations were against him already. He was used to having half of the football world against him. It must have been pressure from the Americans. The US authorities are renowned for not letting go of something once they've got their teeth into it. After the events of last week, I assume Sepp Blatter took advice from lawyers in the US about how his future could look. For that reason he could resign himself, and wasn't forced to do it.

It is being speculated that Blatter is being personally investigated. Do you think that could be the case?

It's definitely possible. The threat is simply there now. The Americans are forcing FIFA to take action. We will see in the next few days and weeks, just how stylish this resignation from Blatter really was. If it only happened because the Americans were so close to exposing him, then it won't be worth as much as it appears to represent now. The Americans clearly have Blatter in their sights. But FIFA won't just curl up in a ball and wait for the Americans to attack. It will be interesting to see what happens legally in the next few weeks.

Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter said he was stopping as president on Tuesday

Many people are expressing their relief that Blatter has resigned. Is it really going to make a big difference at FIFA?

At first yes. But once you start asking what will come next, then there are many open questions. There is no replacement ready. There is a concern that the continental regional associations will drift apart from each other. We just have to wait for everyone to take a deep breath and form some new alliances. The English FA is very happy, the Germans are satisfied - as are other national associations. But what are they going to do now?

Sepp Blatter has called for a special FIFA congress sometime between December 2015 and March 2016. Until then, he wants to keep control and start with the reforms. Is that really realistic?

If the Americans continue to put pressure on Blatter then he probably won't be able to do his work as FIFA president. If that doesn't happen, then at least Blatter won't leave a vacuum in this position. He is still able to call together a new congress. I don't think it will happen this year - it's more likely in spring 2016. But that gives FIFA and all interested parties an opportunity to take their time and plan the future.

Until now, Sepp Blatter has ruled FIFA in his own way. Who could possibly replace him?

A perfect candidate doesn't exist. There doesn't appear to be a leader anywhere that could build a more modern FIFA. Prince Ali [Bin Al Hussein] can't campaign again, in my opinion. Luis Figo is damaged goods. Jerome Champagne would be capable of doing it. But it's doubtful he would get enough support, especially because he and Michel Platini are at loggerheads. There is no savior available right now. Perhaps it is better that way. Who says the person needs to come from the football world? There's no rule saying they must.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein shouldn't campaign again says Tognoni

We now have the important opportunity to change fundamentals. For me what seems most important is that the term of office for the FIFA president is limited. Otherwise you have to go looking for another Superman-like figure who can do the job for 20 years again. And that's not what people want. The voting rights of the individual associations needs to be changed. They are not representative of what is happening in the real world of football.

What is the role of the Europeans in all this?

They need to play an important role of reconciling the different sides. Sepp Blatter always said he and FIFA were protecting the rest of the world against Europe's greed. I never saw Europe as greedy. Europe was always happy just looking after itself and didn't really want to play a huge, international role. But now, Europe, as the center of the commercialization of football, really is in the spotlight. It needs to take the lead, otherwise they will lose control of the situation. And that would be a bad thing for FIFA.

Do you see the German Football Association, the DFB, as having a special role to play? After all, Wolfgang Niersbach is president of the biggest sporting association in the world there.

Exactly, that's the point. And, on top of that, Germany is World Champion. In all the years that I have known FIFA, Germany was always submissive to the organization and never looked for a leadership role. Internationally, Germany doesn't have as many clear footballing allies, like the English and the French. But, Germany should wake up from its coma and become aware of the responsibility it has, as the biggest, most important, and - at the moment - most successful national football association in the world. Wolfgang Niersbach, who lacks the political experience for understandable reasons, doesn't fly the flag on his own. It would be a shame if Germany doesn't use the current vacuum that exists, to get itself into a better position. Politically, not in a football sense.

Michel Platini and Wolfgang Niersbach shake hands

Michel Platini and Wolfgang Niersbach: neiter of them seem likely to take over a role at FIFA

Do you think there is another alternative to FIFA?

I could imagine that some players might think that the most important nations and clubs, should come together to form an interest group. That could work. But the idea of FIFA, as a worldwide organization, is not bad. It's just been perverted by the officials, who think that FIFA is there for their personal profit. The mentality needs to change. I think that the idea of FIFA needs to be promoted. Namely, an organization that reaches across the world, and which takes notice of the smaller parties. But this was abused, and it can't continue this way in the future.

Guido Tognoni, from Switzerland, was the head of press for FIFA from 1984 to 1995. In 2001 he returned to run marketing at football's governing body. Two years later, FIFA sacked Tognoni, apparently due to differences of opinion between Tognoni and Sepp Blatter. Since then, the soon-to-be 65-year-old has been one of FIFA's biggest critics.

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