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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 11:22 GMT
Blatter, the beleaguered president
Fifa president Sepp Blatter
Blatter has endured a difficult past two years
By BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce

Sepp Blatter is the consummate football politician, a man with the easy charm of a game show host and a razor-sharp understanding of his sport's backroom dealings.

Several times over the past two years he has been close to being forced to resign, only to wriggle free and emerge in an even stronger position than before.

He became Fifa president in 1998 after a bitter battle with Uefa's president Lennart Johansson, a struggle which continues to this day.

  Sepp Blatter
64-year-old Swiss, formerly worked at watch-makers Longines
Technical director at Fifa between 1975-81
Right-hand man at Fifa as general secretary between 1981 and 1998
Consummate showman, speaks five languages
Took over as Fifa President in 1998
At last summer's Fifa conference in Buenos Aires, 65-year-old Blatter was expected to come under severe pressure for his handling of the world governing body's finances.

The collapse of the marketing company Blatter had hired to oversee the next two World Cups, ISL, was thought to be likely to cost him his job.

ISL's bankruptcy lost Fifa £40m, and criminal charges against members of the company were quickly followed by the cancellation of the World Club Championship - a competition dubbed 'Blatter's baby'.

But Blatter survived after making a typically rousing speech, promising a public audit of Fifa's books.

He is now hoping to be re-elected president at this year's conference, in Seoul on 28-29 May.

Blatter is a shrewd manipulator of opinion, and his original election came in large part thanks to the votes of the African federations after he promised a World Cup to the continent.

Sepp Blatter
Blatter has denied any wrong-doing
He now claims to have the backing of more than 100 national associations across all six Fifa confederations, although this latest scandal could change that.

Uefa chief executive Gerhard Aigner, meanwhile, has been very critical of Blatter, and has been portraying Uefa as the open and transparent face of football.

Blatter in turn feels that Aigner has tried to influence other football officials against him.

"I do feel a certain sadness about the way that some want to prevent me from remaining where I am," said Blatter last month.

Asked whom he meant in particular, he replied: "The (Uefa) general secretary. I can say this very clearly."

Blatter has been happy to speak his mind on several high-profile issues in the past year.

When a number of top players were suspended for using the banned substance nandrolone, he said their clubs might be doping them without the players' knowledge.

You could say my fiancée is the 98 year-old woman called Fifa
Sepp Blatter
He has said that he would like to see foreign referees employed in the English Premiership and also called for an all-British football team at the Olympics.

He said last year he would like to see beer and sandwiches banned from football grounds in order to keep the stands clean.

"I have never seen in a theatre or at the opera that people had a beer or a sandwich," he said. "We shouldn't have beer on the terraces or in the stands."

The brewers who have signed up as sponsors of the World Cup finals were not amused.

Blatter also kicked up a diplomatic storm when he called on the government of South Korea to ban the eating of dogs during this summer's World Cup.

But, so far at least, all these problems and more have failed to bring him down.

Dedication to football

A gifted orator, his skill in working an audience is so great that he left that crisis meeting in Argentina last summer to a standing ovation.

"My dedication to football is total - not just from my legs but from my heart," he has claimed.

"You could say my fiancée is the 98-year-old woman called Fifa.

"I have worked hard. I have not always been successful, but only those who don't work never commit errors."

Last year, he answered his critics with the following words: "Tell me what I've done wrong.

"Why should I prove my innocence? Those who are making these accusations should finally provide some evidence.

"They will find no evidence, because I'm totally innocent."

Do not expect the great survivor to change his tune this time around.

See also:

17 Jan 02 |  Cup of Nations
Blatter promises 2010 to Africa
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