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When police raided the luxury Baur au Lac hotel, overlooking Lake Zurich early on Wednesday, it was not the curtain-raiser that Fifa’s Sepp Blatter had in mind for his likely re-election as president of football’s world governing body in two days’ time.
Many view Friday’s election as more of a ceremonial coronation than a democratic ballot, but the dramatic arrest of Fifa officials in their hotel rooms will cast a dark cloud over proceedings.
Suspicion has hung about Fifa for years, and although Mr Blatter is not thought to be implicated in Wednesday’s arrests, one has to wonder – why is he so determined to carry on in the top job?
When the 79-year-old walks out into Zurich’s vast Hallenstadion on Friday for Fifa’s presidential election, he is unlikely to fear any opposition. There are just 209 electors, many of them representing small footballing nations, and Mr Blatter has been cultivating them for years.
After the withdrawal of Luis Figo and Michael van Praag, there is only one man standing against Mr Blatter, Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, and Mr Hussein will almost certainly not command enough votes to pose any kind of threat.
So barring any unexpected upsets, Mr Blatter will assume an unprecedented fifth four-year term, and in doing so remain in charge of a multibillion-dollar sport.
What drives a man, soon to be 80, and who once promised not to stand for re-election, to so clearly crave another four years in such a high profile, and highly scrutinised, position?
“He clearly considers himself to be the only person capable of running Fifa,” says Roland Buechel, a Swiss member of parliament and campaigner for more transparency at the top of football.
“I assume he wants to die in office”.
Playground king
Mr Blatter was born to a modest family in the alpine town of Visp. Legend has it he was the king of the playground at the local primary school in the 1940s, and the only boy there who possessed a professional-quality football.
After school Mr Blatter followed a not unusual career pattern for a Swiss man in the 1960s and 70s. He did his obligatory service in Switzerland’s militia army, rising to the rank of colonel. While there he made contacts which would serve him later in life.
Mr Blatter worked in the watch industry, and increasingly in sports management, serving at the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation before moving to Fifa as its technical director in 1975.