Nobel snub likely to be painful for Blatter

Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:35pm EDT
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By Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - Beleaguered FIFA president Sepp Blatter has taken plenty of blows over the last few weeks, but the snub delivered by the Nobel Peace Center may be painful for a man who gives the impression that he wants to be seen as a statesman.

Blatter, immensely proud of being the first FIFA president to take the World Cup to Africa when South Africa hosted the tournament in 2010, has long harbored lofty ambitions about soccer contributing to world peace and social harmony.

He used to refer to the late former South Africa President Nelson Mandela as "my friend Madiba", the Xhosa clan name by which he was affectionately known, and has spent two years trying to thrash out a truce between the soccer associations of Israel and Palestine.

During a meeting with Pope Francis, he told the pontiff that soccer was about “bringing people together, uniting people, constructing bridges".

An interview with the Swiss SonntagsZeitung summed up his view that soccer is more than just 22 players kicking a ball around a field.

"Soccer must play a socio-cultural role. We reach 1.6 billion people," he said. "Thanks to the positive emotions that soccer triggers, FIFA is more influential than any country on Earth and any religion. We move masses. We want to use that to create more peace, justice and health in the world."

Blatter has toured the world spreading his message, meeting dozens of state presidents, and a visit to Tajikistan last year was fairly typical.

"A meeting with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe’s Palace of Nations and a visit to the Super Cup final between FC Ravshan Kulob and FC Istiklol on Tuesday evening kick-started the visit," said FIFA's website.   Continued...

FIFA President Sepp Blatter (L) holds the hand of Bente Erichsen, director of the Nobel Peace Center, during the 62nd FIFA Congress in Budapest May 25, 2012.  REUTERS/Stringer