The Sepp Blatter Show
By, Quazi Zulquarnain Islam
I met Sepp Blatter the other day. No, I am not kidding, I really did meet him. And yes, it was worth it. For those of you, those very few ill-informed of you (I should add!) who are at this very time scratching their heads and wondering where you heard that name, well I have nothing really to say.
Not knowing who Sepp Blatter is, is akin to not knowing who Kofi Annan is. But lets not get into that, shall we? Anyways, Sepp, otherwise known as Joseph S Blatter (and by many a more colourful nickname, which cannot be printed in this column in the interest of reserving some vestige of respect!) is the president of FIFA. What that translates into is that he is boss of almost all football that goes on in this world. And that is what makes todays' SportsWatch worth writing.
You see, not many have been privileged to meet Blatter. And if you include Bangladesh into that Venn diagram, you come up with an almost infinitesimal segment. For the last time that a FIFA president honoured this country with his presence was way back in the year of 1982, when, for the record, yours truly was not even born.
The preceding paragraphs may emanate a message of admiration towards Sepp Blatter and that is the last thing I want to give. I am not a fan of the man. Really never have been for reasons that are too big to put in this column. What I cannot deny is that the man has done more for football than any other man in the last three decades. It is he who should be singularly (maybe a bit contentiously as well) credited with making football a truly global sport.
And he is the president perhaps the most powerful sporting institution in the whole world today. If that doesn't deserve respect, I don't know what does. So when the man was in Bangladesh, I thought it was too much to let slip to not meet him. After all it might be another 24 years before another chance might come along.
And so I went.
Blatter came riding up in his stretch limo, entourage in trail and started proceedings with a simple message. Football is not just a game, it is a means of life. Truer words were never spoken.
My admiration for the man grew with every passing moment. He was suave and a superb orator. He put everyone at ease while at the same time passing on an image that reverberated louder that any words: I am the big draw here it said, and no one would beg to differ.
Sitting less than five feet from him I watched intently as Blatter spoke of many things. He joked with the reporters, announced himself one of the family, said his reception at Dhaka was the most extraordinary that he had ever received and also went on to narrate how much he hoped that football here would emulate or even pass the popularity of "the weird game that you all play here…like baseball."
It was, in short, an experience and a half. You don't meet international draws like that every other day, that much is definitely true. I must admit I was impressed.
And then came the question answer session. And my chance to ask an eager and co-operative Blatter, anything I fancied. I scoured by brain for details, questions coming from realms and places I didn't even know I had. There were ofcourse too many and I had to ask something in the context of the discussion. While it was not nearly that, it wasn't too far off.
So I gathered up my courage and without heeding the vivaciously pretty host who kept trying to put me off I presented Blatter with a question of my own.
" Mr Blatter," I asked, " Do you think the performances of the Asian teams in the World Cup 2002 was a flash in the pan? Or was it a result of targeted developments? Can they repeat it?"
Blatter paused a second, a second that lasted a thousand years, weighing up his answer. He then proceeded to lock his steely gaze into mine and say,
" We will know more after this World Cup. The last time, the teams from UEFA were all tired because they played ten days before the finals and the Asians were playing at home. This time the leagues will finish on May 15th. Plenty of time to rest and recuperate. But whatever happens, don't expect any team to come flying in and win the finals this time. It will be very competitive."
And so ended my two minutes in the sun. Figuratively. But when you talk with people like Blatter, time is at a premium. A minute is a lot more than many have had a chance to get.
In the end what it was, was a great experience! I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope you will too when recollecting it through my eyes!
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