When the entire world is calling your probity and moral fiber into question, when you've been suspended as president of the organisation that you've overseen for years, and when you're watching your entire career come apart in an explosion of corruption allegations ... what do you do?
If you were Sepp Blatter, you might keep your counsel and let your lawyers do the talking. Give the world nothing except an inscrutable countenance and, hopefully, a kind of serene confidence. These allegations? Mere trifles. I shall not even dignify them with a moment of my time. I have Nobel prizes to win.
Or you can come out swinging.
Luckily for us, Blatter has chosen option two. In an interview with Russian news agency Tass, FIFA's suspended (and suspender-loving) supremo has shared with us all his thoughts on the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the ongoing crisis at the top of FIFA and UEFA and fellow suspendee Michel Platini. The whole thing's worth your time, but below are our favorite claims.
If it hadn't been for Michel Platini, the 2022 World Cup would have been in the USA
There has long been suspicion and innuendo surrounding a lunch between then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, UEFA President Michel Platini, and the then-crown prince of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Having such a lunch 10 days before the vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups is ... well, we'll just say interesting. But Blatter will say more:
In 2010 we had a discussion of the World Cup and then we went to a double decision. For the World Cups it was agreed that we go to Russia because it's never been in Russia, eastern Europe, and for 2022 we go back to America. And so we will have the World Cup in the two biggest political powers. And everything was good until the moment when Sarkozy came in a meeting with the crown prince of Qatar, who is now the ruler of Qatar. And at a lunch afterwards with Mr. Platini he said it would be good to go to Qatar. And this has changed all pattern.
There was an election by secret ballot. Four votes from Europe went away from the USA and so the result was fourteen to eight. If you put the four votes, it would have been twelve to ten. If the USA was given the World Cup, we would only speak about the wonderful World Cup 2018 in Russia and we would not speak about any problems at FIFA.
So much to enjoy here, not least the possibility that since Platini has previously claimed that he may take legal action against anybody who "casts doubt on the honesty" of his vote, we might be set for some more legal action. But beyond the obvious finger-pointing, we're very much enjoying the implication that both votes were all set to be entirely pointless.
On his own portrayal back home
Blatter is not pleased with the way that Europe's media have taken against him. Particularly in his native Switzerland ...
I was bitterly affected by how I was abandoned by my own country. The Swiss media got very aggressive against me because I am from a very small canton, Valais, in the mountains and some of the people here think those coming from the mountains eat with their fingers. Primitive.
On where the scandal is coming from
Clue: it's not Blatter's fault.
At the beginning it was only a personal attack ... but then it became politics. And when it is in politics, it is not any longer Platini against me. It is then those, who have lost the World Cup. England against Russia. They lost the World Cup. And the USA lost the World Cup against Qatar. ... And you are from TASS and you know what are the problems between your country and the US. The FIFA World Cup or the FIFA president is a ball in the big political power game.
On what FIFA is and is not
Blatter, when explaining the above, makes sure to clarify that FIFA is indestructible because ...
FIFA is not the Swiss bank. FIFA is not a commercial company.
And that's quite right. FIFA is not about making money, it's about ... oh, hang on. One question later:
Since I became president of FIFA, we have made FIFA a big commercial company.
When asked about the calls in the English press for the World Cup to be stripped from Russia, Blatter assumes his most diplomatic aspect:
Bad losers. In Great Britain they have made this beautiful game, they have introduced fair play. But there was only one vote going for England. They were eliminated in the first round. Nobody wanted to have England.
On the multi-million euro payment made to Platini
This is how big commercial companies that are not big commercial companies work:
When he was chairman of the organizing committee for the France World Cup, he told me at the end of the Cup, "I would like to work for you." And I said this is great because we all already worked with him. It was in 1998. And then he said that I am very expensive. I said okay. So he said, "I am worth one million a year." I said I cannot pay this, it's impossible. And he said, "Okay, then pay me later."
In 2010 he approached the financial director of FIFA by saying, "Hey, listen, FIFA owes us money." I was informed about that and I said, okay let him make an invoice of this what we owe him. And then he said we owe him two million Swiss francs. And then I analyzed that and I said okay. Yes, it's a contract we have made. And it's a principle I have in my life that if you owe money to somebody, then you pay it. Then we paid it. That's all. And this money was not paid for any other reasons.
If FIFA ever need to look around for another slogan, they could do worse than that last sentence. "FIFA: This money was not paid for any other reasons".
On FIFA, and perspective
After all that hardball stuff, the interviewers decide to lob Blatter a gentle closer. "What will your man message to the new president of FIFA be?"
I'll tell him: don't forget that FIFA is the most valuable institution in the world. On one side, our game is best in discipline and respect.
In a funny way, we're going to miss him.