Posted: 8/7/2008
Title: NO. 6 TRAM TO THE FIFA ZOO

Blog:                                                                                                                         

      Waiting for the No. 6 tram on the corner of Bahnhofstrasse, just outside Zurich Hofbahnhof, I look into the shop windows of this exclusive shopping street.  No 104 -Merkur Chocolates, some wonderful smells. No 100 - Kauffmann Metzgerei-what's for lunch? No 98 - Yves Rocher, toiletries and perfumes. I had first been to the junction of the River Limmat and Lake Zurich next to the Quai-brucke on Uto-Quai to feed the swans. There were over 100 of them and a great place to have a picnic, with a cut price grocery store 20 metres away.

    Anyway, I must leave and the blue and white twin-car tram rapidly turns a corner and crosses the River Limmat and up the hill past the University of Zurich and up to Sonnenberg, Sunny Hill. The route runs every 7 minutes on the 15 minute journey. The last stop is ZOO, where lots of families get off and walk to look at the animals. Appropriately its also the stop for the new FIFA HEADQUARTERS, the $200 million Glass Palace, just past the University sports fields.

    The day before New Years Eve, 1969,with the snow falling, I first knocked on the door at 11 Hitzigweg, the mansion purchased under the reign of FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous, and a wise investment, high about Lake Zurich and next to vine covered slopes. I was welcomed in by a manservant, and to the office with a roaring fire of General Secretary Dr. Helmut Kaser and 2 large dogs, just looked like the study of an English private school headmaster. In those days FIFA was struggling for funds. It wasn't until Brasilian Joao Havelange took the top job from Rous at the second vote at the FIFA Congress in Frankurt, which I covered, just prior the the World Cup in West Germany that things started to change.

     Sepp Blatter, a native of VISP in the Valais and a former Secretary of the Swisss Ice Hockey Federation was brought in from LonginesTiming, and secretly groomed as Kaser's successor. In 1981 Kaser was fired after objecting to Havalenge's financial methods, and Blatter took over. Oh, he had courted Kaser's daughter Barbara, and married her without telling her father or even inviting him and his wife to the wedding!!!, but was later divorced. Their daughter Corinne was provided with a job with the old Australian Football Federation, after the vote to have the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.!

    He linked up with the aggressive marketing genius, Horst Dassler, one of the sons of ADIDAS founder Adi Dassler, and sport changed forever, with more third world participants, more teams at the final, other FIFA youth tournaments, corporate partnerships and lots and lots of money. Coca-Cola, Gillette and other world brands were happy to give big bucks to be associated with 'The World's Game'. Dassler died prematurely at age 51.

     I remember being a guest at the ADIDAS hotel restaurant in Hertzogenaurach,immediately after the 1974 World Cup and it was full of Eastern European and African sports 'dictators'. "When I arrived in Zurich in 1974 I found an old  house and $20.00 in the bank. Twenty four years later after I left there is a new headquarters and $3 billion in sponsorships." said Havelange. He was 59 when he won the second vote in Frankfurt, 20 years younger than Rous, a former FIFA referee pioneer, secretary of the English F.A. and organizer of the 1948 London Olympics.  The Brasilian had swum and played water polo for his country at the 1930 Los Angeles Olympics and in London in 1948, and was the team manager of the first Brasilian World Cup winning squad in 1958.

   Well, now FIFA is rolling in money-a $619 million surplus after FIFA World Cup 2006, with vice-presidents and their entourages flying around the globe to World Cups, Olympic tournaments and the more than 208 member nations, in first class luxury and unlimited secret budgets. From 4 employees when I first visited, it now employs almost 300 staff.

   The new headquarters is huge, surrounded by fences, with strict coded access-no knocking on the door these days!!. It was a Saturday morning and no sign of life. There are some well maintained laws, flower beds and soccer fields, and an entrance to a vaste underground car park.

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