‘No Blatter, no problem’

VANCOUVER: Players do not care who hands out trophies and the absence of embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter will not have any impact on the Women’s World Cup final, organisers said on Friday.

With world soccer’s governing body embroiled in corruption investigations, Blatter’s US based lawyer has told Reuters the FIFA chief will not travel to Vancouver for Sunday’s final between the United States and Japan. It will be the first time Blatter has not presented the trophy to the winners of the women’s competition, which is held every four years, since he became FIFA president in 1998.

“The players don’t care who gives them the trophy to be quite frank with you,” Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani told reporters during the tournament’s final press conference. Montagliani said: “It’s the prerogative of the president, or anybody at FIFA, to go to whatever competition they want. The choice was made but I actually think in light of the circumstances, the focus needs to be on the games and the players not the suits that run football like myself or anybody else.” He added: “As I said, whoever wins the World Cup, whether it’s you or me who hands them the trophy, I’m sure they are not too bothered by it.”

Blatter, the self-styled “godfather of women’s football,” said before the tournament began on June 6 that he was looking forward to being in Canada. FIFA said in a statement that Secretary General Jerome Valcke would also not travel to Vancouver. Reuters was unable to determine the specific reasons why Blatter, a Swiss national, had decided not to attend the final.

Some lawyers with experience in international criminal cases said that Blatter would be ill-advised to travel after an indictment announced on May 27 by US prosecutors against nine current and former FIFA officials and five sports marketing businessmen. US prosecutors have not accused Blatter of any wrongdoing, but his stewardship of world soccer’s governing body is under scrutiny, sources familiar with investigations in the United States and Switzerland have said.

Richard Cullen, Blatter’s attorney, told Reuters that that FIFA Senior Vice President Issa Hayatou of Cameroon would preside at the trophy ceremony. But Tatjana Haenni, the FIFA deputy director of the competitions division and head of women’s football, would not confirm who would take over the duty.

“I think who hands the trophy over and what kind of dignitaries we have and what kind of politicians are in the stands is maybe for the teams and spectators maybe not so important,” Haenni said. “People come to watch the players and watch the game and want to be part of it in the stadium or on TV or whatever means they have that is what people are excited about,” he added.