SYDNEY (Reuters) - FIFA chief Sepp Blatter often talks about being the head of the “football family” but if the boos that greeted his appearance at the Asian Cup final on Saturday are anything to go by, he is not too popular with his Australian cousins.
The Swiss, who is expected to win a fifth term as president of soccer’s world governing body in May, was roundly jeered when he was introduced to the crowd at the trophy ceremony after Australia beat South Korea 2-1 in extra time.
Blatter was standing alongside Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, who had provoked the ire of many in Australia when he was quoted in an interview as saying some Gulf nations wanted the Socceroos out of Asia.
It was only when Blatter himself took centre stage, however, that the boos reached a crescendo, echoing the reception he received at the World Cup final in Brazil last year.
Many Australian soccer fans are still unhappy that their government-funded bid to host the 2022 World Cup earned just one vote and lost out to Qatar, whose campaign has been dogged by controversy.
Blatter gave an interview with TV station SBS during his time Down Under and said Australia should not be put off having another go at bidding.
“I am convinced that Australia could and should organise the World Cup but it was not easy, they were candidates for the 2022 World Cup but the opposition was a very big opposition and they passed at the last place,” he said.
“This should not mean that they should not come back and try again because if you never take a risk you will never have a chance, but if you take a risk you also have a chance to lose.”
Al Khalifa, who released a statement on Friday saying Australia had earned its place in Asia after making the switch from Oceania in 2006, later offered his congratulations to the host nation.
“Australia has won the competition for the very first time in their history, and to do this in front of the home crowd is truly special. I would like to commend the team for their deserved victory,” he said.
“Australia’s win and their standard of performance throughout the competition is a yardstick that all Asian nations should look to follow, and this also goes for their organisation of the whole event.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ed Osmond