For decades I have lived and breathed football every single day. It is my passion. I am deeply proud of my career and the wonderful support I have known in Argentina and abroad from fans, friends and colleagues on the field. That is why I am writing today.
In the last few decades, football has changed – and not for the better. Once, it was a sport you could be proud of, a sport that united the world. But Fifa, its governing body, has turned into a playground for the corrupt.
Most football fans can predict what I am about to say next: Under Sepp Blatter, Fifa has become a disgrace and a painful embarrassment to those of us who care about football deeply.
When I speak with football enthusiasts these days the conversation inevitably turns to the Fifa elections. While I find almost no one openly supporting Blatter, many think he will win a fifth term. Why? The whole notion of a fifth term is an absurdity in 2015 – it is not acceptable in democratic countries anywhere. Nor is it acceptable in the United Nations or most international organisations today.
But somehow it is OK for Fifa. We have a dictator for life.
I call Blatter “the man of ice” because he lacks the inspiration and passion that are at the very heart of football. If this is the face of international football, we are in a very bad place.
Football is an intense world, filled with conflict and it has always had its problems, but the head of Fifa should not be one of them.
The media is filled with stories on the string of scandals that have surrounded Blatter for well over a decade. There are so many, it has almost become boring to repeat them.
Who would be surprised by another bit of Fifa intrigue and larceny, another accusation of bribery?
No one has argued that he is the best man for the job and deserves to win. They “praise” him for keeping one step ahead of the investigators – whether they are auditors or the FBI – and ignore how Fifa finances have turned into a shambles with losses over $100 million (£65 million) alone at ISL, the Swiss marketing company closely associated to Fifa.
There is a sick admiration for Blatter much like that accorded to an old Mafia boss who has somehow managed to stay out of jail.
Blatter’s political history is one of promoting division and hiding failures.
Recently he pledged to follow through in addressing racism in football and promoting women in the sport. That made me laugh. My question is: “Sepp, what were you doing in your last four terms?”
We all know the answer to that: surrounding himself with crooks who lined their pockets at the expense of the sport. If he were an honest man, surely he would not have spent half his time blocking outside investigations into Fifa finances?
Why is this dodgy 79-year-old running for a fifth term at Fifa anyway? His cronies have stolen everything but the furniture in his office and he has claimed to know nothing. Perhaps we should call him Saint Sepp the Innocent … What a joke.
If leadership matters, then no national football association could, in good conscience, support Blatter for a fifth term. He is incompetent. When you are knee deep in massive financial losses and bribes and notice nothing, you are a fool or a thief.
All these corruption investigations are bleeding the life out of Fifa, and international football is drowning in a sea of contempt. Few sports in history have suffered the bad press football has faced in recent years and much of that press is owed to Blatter.
Key sponsors like Continental, Castrol and Johnson & Johnson are running away from Fifa. The Council of Europe has condemned Blatter’s handling of the collapse of ISL and over $100 million in losses. The FBI is looking at the handling of the US bid for 2022. There have been hundreds of media articles on massive financial losses, mismanagement and bribery.
We need young and creative leadership at Fifa – the kind of leadership that is inclusive and open to new ideas. We need a football culture, not a mafia culture.
Why are we all just passively accepting this corruption? Enough is enough.
We want our game back.