Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 19 News List

World Cup: Press mystified by Blatter's absence at medal ceremony


One person was conspicuous by his absence from the podium when Italy's players received their winners' medals and German President Horst Koehler handed their captain Fabio Cannavaro the World Cup.

The president of soccer's world controlling body FIFA, Sepp Joseph Blatter, was not amongst the host of dignitaries present at the award ceremony after the dramatic 5-3 penalty shootout win over France.

The president of the local organizing committee Franz Beckenbauer was there, as was the president of Europe's controlling body UEFA, Lennart Johansson, but there was no sign of Blatter.

Beckenbauer in fact presented the medals to the Italians, while the players grabbed the trophy after it was handed over by the German president.

But in all of this Blatter was missing -- as he was when the runners-up received their medals from Beckenbauer.

A spokesman for the local organizing committee said that as far as he knew, Blatter was going to be present when the cup was handed over.

"I have no idea why he was not there," he said. "This morning we were given the program and he was mentioned. I do not know why this changed."

FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said that Blatter had decided on the spur of the moment that he would not be present on the podium for the presentation.

"There is nothing in the rules about it, so the president could quite comfortably stay behind," he said.

In the run-up to the tournament FIFA and the German organizing committee had been involved in a controversy over the list of speakers at the opening, with FIFA being accused of wanting to prevent Beckenbauer from speaking.

Blatter has not always been popular amongst German soccer fans and last year was booed in the stadiums during the Confederations Cup.

Berlin's top World Cup official shot himself in the head hours after the tournament ended on Sunday night but survived his apparent suicide attempt, a police spokesman said yesterday.

Emergency services found the man, who was the Berlin local government's representative on the World Cup organizing committee, at his house in the suburbs of Berlin early on Monday.

The Berliner Zeitung daily reported that the man, a 65-year-old widower called Juergen Kiessling, had left two suicide notes, one for his daughter and one for his family.

Citing a police source, the newspaper said Kiessling had "political" problems. German media said his condition remained life-threatening.

Berlin hosted the World Cup final on Sunday when more than a million fans spilled on to the city's streets as Italy beat France 5-3 on penalties, concluding the four-week event.

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