Football governing body’s president wants focus on reform, not just election of a new president.
Despite calls for him to step down immediately, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced on Monday that he is to continue in his position for another seven months, after football’s world body agreed on a February 25 election to replace him.
But a prankster who managed to get past FIFA security at the organisation’s Zurich headquarters overshadowed Blatter’s press conference by showering the embattled governing body’s chief with fake money.
The man, later identified by British media as British comedian Lee Nelson, was draped in a North Korean flag and shouted: “This is for North Korea 2026,” in a reference to the next available World Cup hosting opportunity, before hurling the paper bills at Blatter.
“Cheers, Sepp, it’s all there,” he said.
Nelson, whose real name is Simon Brodkin, was led away by Swiss police.
The image of Blatter cowering under a spray of money was powerful amid ongoing American and Swiss federal investigations into FIFA corruption, yet after leaving the room for 10 minutes while the bills were cleaned up, he regained his poise.
“I just called my late mother,” he quipped on returning to the room, “and she said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s just a lack of education’.”
Al Jazeera’s Lee Wellings, reporting from Zurich, said “the root of all of FIFA’s problems during Sepp Blatter’s long reign has been money” and the British comedian provided “a stark visual representation of the corruption years”.
“Two criminal investigations continue into corruption, FIFA’s executives remain in custody and Sepp Blatter remains in office for seven more months in near farcical circumstances,” our correspondent said.
“This doesn’t look nor feel like a new era.”
The 79-year-old Blatter, who first joined FIFA 40 years ago, has held onto the most powerful job in world soccer since 1998.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who lost a presidential vote to Blatter in May, had earlier on Monday told The Associated Press news agency that Blatter’s resignation “cannot be dragged out any longer”.
“He must leave now,” he said.
But while Blatter said he felt “regret” about the crisis, he insisted he would not be “abandoning” the presidency until a successor was elected by the 209 member associations.
The February 26 date was a political victory for Blatter over European governing body UEFA and its supporters in other continents, who wanted a December ballot and thought they had a compromise agreement for January 15.
Blatter and senior vice president Issa Hayatou held sway with a late tactic. They cited not clashing with the second-tier African Nations Championship — a tournament for little-known home-based players — hosted in Rwanda from January 16 to February 7.
Late February has personal significance to Blatter. It will mark exactly 40 years since his first major duty for FIFA, which was a development conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
There seemed little to attract a respected figure from outside the sport to oversee the next election and reforms of FIFA.
Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general from Ghana, has been mentioned for the role.
Jaimie Fuller, of the Change FIFA Now group told Al Jazeera that demands should be made by “governments, fans, the public, by all football lovers, to Kofi Annan, to please come in and clean up this mess”.