Sepp Blatter (left) and N Srinivasan © Getty Images
Sepp Blatter (left) and N Srinivasan © Getty Images

Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA President after being in charge of the apex body since 1998, after he was re-elected in a convincing manner. With dark clouds of corruption looming over his head for a while, Blatter felt it was time for him to step down and let law take its own course. Pramod Ananth opines N Srinivasan could have done the same long time ago, as he can still detach himself from cricket till his image gets clear.

Football, like cricket, too attracts a lot of attention from issues off the field, which often do not bring any good to either of the sports.

Sepp Blatter took over as the President of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) a long 17 years back and his tenure was marred with controversies. The list of accusations over Blatter is rather long (including accepting bribes) and rigging the bidding during the selection of venues for FIFA World Cup 2018 as well as 2022, among many. He has always stood tall and has dismissed such allegations.

In 2007 and 2011, Blatter won the Presidential elections unopposed, and the story was same in 2015.

What was the need for Blatter to step down? Just a couple of days before he was re-elected as President, 14 people, which included nine current or past FIFA members, were arrested by Swiss Police. Blatter later revealed that he was being investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on charges of corruption. He did everything possible to stay in power, but better sense eventually prevailed and he is now no longer in charge of FIFA, paving way for a new beginning.

Another power-hungry man that comes to mind — just like Blatter — is former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief N Srinivasan.  It needed the intervention of India’s apex court — a matter of national shame — as Srinivasan was ordered by the Supreme Court to vacate his position as BCCI President. Like Blatter, Srinivasan too was adamant. But unlike Blatter, Srinivasan staggered everyone with his damning resolve in face of controversies though it was proven that one of his family members was deeply involved in malicious activities.

Srinivasan faced humiliation after it was proven that Gurunath Meiyappan, his son-in-law and former Team Principal of Chennai Super Kings (CSK). was involved with the bookies.  Then there was this case of conflict of interest when Srinivasan was the owner of CSK while being BCCI President.

The increasing pressure from Indian Supreme Court had no effect on Srinivasan. It was after some very strong resistance that he paved way for Jagmohan Dalmiya to return. Srinivasan was asked to stay away from Indian Premier League (IPL) as well, which he agreed to but tried his best to remain the head of BCCI. After repeated requests, Supreme Court put its foot down and barred Srinivasan from contesting the Presidential elections.

After all this drama, one wonders whether it was needed, if it did any good to the sport. Can’t sports be kept clear of corruption and be played in the spirit in the way it was intended to be played with? No doubt, in the past a few players have brought disrepute too, but matters become worse when administrators, knee-deep in corruption, are supposed to nurture sports. Who is going to clean up the mess?

A sportsman is also a role model for innumerable children watching the game, who form the future of sport. What effects did Mohammad Azharuddin and Hansie Cronje have on the next generation?

Football was not far behind in this regard. The 2006 Italian football scandal, popularly known as Calciopoli, involved top Italian clubs like AC Milan, Fiorentina and Juventus, the 2015 Champions League finalists. Juventus won the league that year — six days after Italy’s World Cup win in 2006 — and were relegated. Even Milan and Fiorentina went down to the second tier of Italian football. These teams were accused of rigging games and choosing referees as per their choice.

Corruption in football or cricket has been there for quite some time now. Serious steps must be taken to ensure that the sports remain clean. Blatter’s resignation and his image of being a corrupt official should help FIFA to rebuild the system. Blatter must be commended for moving aside from his position, and not attracting wrath like Srinivasan did in India.

India are the superpower of cricket; they are, after all, the richest cricket body. That might be true, but there still cannot be any excuse for tarnishing the image of the sport — or any sport, for that matter.

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry. He has represented Karnataka table tennis under-15, and is a hardcore supporter of Liverpool FC. His Twitter handle is @pramz)