Ill-judged comments rile Ronaldo

1 November ~ The wood-panelled staircases and corridors of the Oxford Union are decorated with black-and-white photographs of committees from years gone by. There is a Heseltine here, a Rees-Mogg there; even Benazir Bhutto had a stint as president in the late 1970s. As a finishing school for politicians, there can be few better places. When FIFA president Sepp Blatter appeared at the Union last Friday, those would-be politicians among the current band of Union "hacks" had another important lesson in statesmanship – but in this case, the lesson was most definitely what not to do.

The sight of Blatter rising to his feet and morphing into Mike Yarwood as he launched into an impromptu impersonation of one of his sport’s greatest players ensured the Swiss septuagenarian avoided a repeat of the booing that had greeted his entrance into the debating chamber but the applause of 400-odd undergraduates was probably no recompense for the media storm that followed.

Blatter had determinedly avoided any awkward situations by forbidding questions from the floor after his speech but instead he found a banana skin in a simple query from the Union president as to whether he preferred Ronaldo or Messi. Instead of a suitably dull, diplomatic response, he stood up and struck a Ronaldo pose, declaring that Messi was a “good boy” and joking about the fact "Ronaldo has more expenses for the hairdresser". It is hard to disagree but whether the FIFA president should be saying such things at a filmed event is a question that has an easy answer. “I apologise if you were upset by my light-hearted answer at private event on Friday. I never meant to offend you,” was Blatter’s eventual apology via Twitter on Tuesday.

On the same day, with Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti complaining about Blatter’s lack of respect, Ronaldo had a dig back with a sarcastic Facebook posting. Alluding to the now widely viewed video of Blatter’s Union performance, he said: “This video shows clearly the respect and consideration that FIFA has for me, for my club and my country. Much is explained now. I wish Mr Blatter health and a long life, with the certainty that he will continue to witness, as he deserves, the successes of his favourite teams and players.” It is odd that Ronaldo felt moved to bring his country into it, but he could certainly be forgiven for turning down any invitations to future FIFA galas.

As for Blatter, his buffoonery at Oxford was simply another reminder that he is a law unto himself. His suggestion during his Union address that he was neither a Bond villain nor an “evil Sheriff of Nottingham” were nice lines but the idea of him as some footballing Robin Hood is hard to swallow. Ditto his assertion just prior to his ill-judged comic turn that he is now cleaning up FIFA – Blatter cited the departure of half of the 22 Executive Committee members involved in the controversial voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. This begs a simple question: what was he doing for the first 12 years of his presidency? Perhaps he really was stroking that white Persian cat and plotting world domination after all. Simon Hart

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