Some acronyms have a life of their own. Often they're the ones that you can say as a word, rather than a series of letters: Nasa rather than the UN. Yet not many acronyms have the power to elicit operatic snorts of derision. Acronyms are normally bland, technocratic, deadened. And then there's Fifa.

In the past year or two, I don't think I've heard the name "Fifa" spoken without an accompanying parade of eye-rolling, head-shaking and elaborate snorting. It's a shame the word doesn't start with a plosive consonant - Pifa, say - as that would make it easier to spit out with contempt. But it stands for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, so we're stuck with Fifa, which sounds more like a cute name for a Labradoodle.

If you hate football, and have no interest in the supranational organisation of the game (what a strange, inward-looking person you must be), you might not know why Fifa has become a byword for sharp practice, farce and sexism. Quick explanation: Sepp Blatter. The body's president is a 75-year-old from Switzerland whose many qualifications for the role include a stint as president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, a campaign group that formed to protest against women swapping stockings and suspender belts for tights. This is a man who has suggested that women footballers should wear "more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball", who said with characteristic elegance that Fifa contains "no rotten eggs" and whose attitude to goal-line technology is primordial at best.

In recent days he has strutted into the debate over racism in football, offering the bravely revisionist view that a "handshake" after the match would sort all the fuss out. Everyone from Rio Ferdinand to David Cameron snorted in response. With the inching speed of a medieval monarch, Blatter amended his remarks, claiming he had been "misunderstood". Aren't we all, Sepp, aren't we all.

Still, perhaps I am being too harsh. This is a man, after all, whose catchy motto about the sport is also a philosophy, according to "Football for all, all for football." Watch out, Descartes, you've got competition.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 28 November 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The rise of the muslim brotherhood