Sepp Blatter profile: How a wedding singer became the most powerful player in football

President Blatter leaves stage after making speech during opening ceremony of 65th FIFA Congress Credit: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

It says something about Sepp Blatter's reign at the top of world football that even esteemed pundits can barely mention his name without raising an eyebrow.

The Swiss 79-year-old is no stranger to controversy, and a fifth term as president of Fifa - football's governing body - would probably include more of the same following the arrest of Mr Blatter's senior colleagues on suspicion of corruption.

Despite being an ambassador for world football, at times his comments on everything from the women to racism have drawn criticism that he is out of touch with the modern game.

Just like Prince Ali Bin al Hussein, his rival for the presidency at today's election, Mr Blatter has become a senior figure in the game without having ever played professionally.

Born Joseph Blatter in Visp, Switzerland on 10 March 1936, he went on to gain a degree in business administration and economics at Lausanne University before becoming a board member at Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax.

His first role with Fifa came some four decades ago, as technical director. Two further positions followed before becoming Fifa's eighth president in 1998.

Activists demonstrate near the 65th FIFA Congress Credit: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Mr Blatter, who is said to have performed as a wedding singer during his youth, was embroiled in his first major controversy within a year of taking office, when he took legal action to stop a book that alleged corruption during his fight for the Fifa presidency.

Then, in 2001, he threatened to sue two German newspapers for alleging he received illegal payments from a bankrupt marketing partner - something which briefly threatened his role as Fifa president.

Mr Blatter briefly appeared to engage with the women's game - although for the wrong reasons - when in 2004 he urged female participants to wear skimpier kits in order to increase interest in the fast-growing sport.

And his choice of words got him into trouble again, five years later, when he said Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo should be allowed to leave the club for Real Madrid if he so desired, criticising a trend towards "modern slavery" in football.

Sepp Blatter plays soccer with Palestinian children Credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

In 2011, Fifa's ethics committee suspended Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed Bin Hammam and Fifa vice-president Jack Warner - among those also arrested on Wednesday - amid bribery allegations but decided "no investigation was warranted" into Mr Blatter.

Having been re-elected as Fifa president for another four years, Mr Blatter provoked widespread outrage when he claimed racist abuse between players on the pitch should be settled by a handshake. Later that day he said his comments were misunderstood.

r Blatter dodged television cameras for 24 hours after the dawn raid Credit: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The latest scandal to hit Fifa, coming after a year of negative headlines in the British press alleging corruption, saw a handful of senior figures arrested. Mr Blatter was not one of them, although he dodged television cameras for 24 hours after the dawn raid and two days before the crucial vote that could see him remain in office for a fifth term.

His bid to avoid the limelight created something of a media vacuum - which was subsequently filled with repeated calls from the likes of Gary Lineker and Greg Dyke for Mr Blatter to resign, or for today's vote to favour Prince Ali.