Sepp Blatter says FIFA must do more to promote women
On the eve of the Women’s U20 World Cup, Fifa president Sepp Blatter said ‘there’s something very reluctant’ in football – and acknowledges his organization must do more to promote women
Blatter: ‘Football is very macho. It’s difficult to accept women in governance’
The Women’s U20 World Cup kicks off in Canada on Tuesday, and on Monday night journalists gathered at a press conference in Toronto. Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, was in the building.
While most of the conference was dedicated to the World Cup, it was clear that someone would have to address the elephant in the room: why aren’t more women involved in soccer governance?
That elephant was addressed during the post-conference Q&A session, when Blatter was asked to discuss Fifa’s plans to develop gender equality. In short: how does Fifa plan to promote women inside Fifa?
The response Blatter gave was shocking, but not because it was sexist, or politically incorrect, or out of touch. It was shocking because it seemed heartfelt, genuine, and – above anything – honest.
“Football is very macho,” Blatter answered. “It’s so difficult to accept [women] in the game. Not playing the game, but in the governance.”
He wasn’t apologetic; rather, sincere. As if he was stating an obvious fact that had yet to be said out loud.
In other words, Blatter had found his own elephant in the room to finally address: why women in his own office are not being encouraged and developed the same way women are on the pitch.
“It’s easy in basketball, it’s easy in volleyball, it’s easy in athletics. It is no problem.
“But in football, I don’t know. There’s something very reluctant.”
He’s right. Football’s governing body is reluctant for change, and Blatter is really only one part of the poly-head hydra.
Therefore, it is not just Blatter who is responsible for executive-level change, despite his presidential role; the rest of Fifa would have to be willing to change as well.
And Fifa is not known for adapting quickly to change.
“If you look at the organization of Fifa,” Blatter explained, “the president is elected by the congress, and all the other members of the executive [are elected] by the confederations. And the confederations never would have proposed a lady.”
Again, he’s right. The other members had never “proposed a lady” for the executive committee member, until Blatter – allegedly – asked them to.
According to Blatter: “Finally, [I] said: ‘Now we go to the congress and ask the congress to [elect] at least one lady.’ It was in 2011 and they said ‘Yes!’ So we now have one fully elected and two appointed.”
That first female elected executive committee member was present. In 2013, only two years after Blatter’s request to the Fifa congress, Lydia Nsekera from Burundi was elected into the Fifa executive committee, where she is currently serving a four-year term.
“It took more than 100 years for Fifa to elect a woman in the executive committee,” Blatter admitted. “It’s not easy to change these attitudes.”
Nodding towards his own understanding of inherent cultural sexism within the organization, Blatter confessed: “It’s not easy for the ladies to have a position inside Fifa.”
“One day they should make the chair of Fifa a woman and then this will change. I am sure.”
But he said: “It is an easier chance for [a woman] to take the chair of Fifa than to have another representative in the executive committee.”
Does Blatter really believe institutional change should happen in Fifa? Probably not, since he basically admitted it would not happen during his time in office.
However, at least he stood up and admitted there is a problem. And while that problem may not be resolved soon, at least he’s willing to acknowledge it exists.
And that’s what’s important: not Blatter’s personal hesitation towards change, but the fact that he not only recognizes, and understands, the institutional sexism of Fifa. The problem cannot be fixed overnight, or even over one political term. But if Fifa’s president is willing to concede there is a problem, that’s the first step towards a solution.
Source courtesy of: theguardian.com
Photo: Peter Power/AP
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