Daily Telegraph

Mihir Bose examines the credentials of the two men battling for world football’s top job


THE 66-year-old, who is seeking his second term as FIFA president, has been with the organisation for 27 years, having started as a technical director before moving on to become general secretary.

Blatter first came to prominence when he worked for Swiss Timing Longines, the firm contracted to provide the timing equipment at Olympic Games. He was then recruited by Horst Dassler (the German who founded Adidas and invented most of modern sports marketing), who in turn recommended him to Joao Havelange, who had recently taken over the presidency of FIFA.

Blatter defies the dour Swiss stereotype. Fluent in many languages, he also exudes charm and geniality. He has the politician’s knack of never forgetting a name and of always being ready with a smile and a handshake, particularly for someone with whom he wants to cultivate a friendship.

He craves the limelight and his one regret as president is that he can no longer preside over the World Cup draw, which he was empowered to do as general secretary. He has never lost his childhood love of the stage and excels in the role of master of ceremonies.


The 56-year-old head of African football could not be more different from Blatter.

Born into one of Cameroon’s old royal families, he exudes much of the patrician air of an old African chief. Educated in the French colonial system (Cameroon was a colony of France), he speaks French and is most comfortable in France. His election headquarters were in Paris and staff mostly French.

Unlike the genial Blatter, Hayatou has a bearing that suggests a certain aloofness and lordly outlook. A devout Muslim, who had more than 16 siblings, Hayatou is happily married and has worked hard at trying to be a man of the people.

A former athlete in Cameroon, he has done much to develop African football. Under him Africa have four World Cup places and four positions on the FIFA executive. He has also developed close ties with UEFA and, in particular, Lennart Johansson, who has a very high opinion of him. Together they launched the Meridian Project to help African football. In 1998 he pledged his support for Johansson against Blatter but despite his best efforts he failed to deliver Africa to his Swedish friend.

© Mihir Bose


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