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Soccer-Blatter attends funeral of 'right-hand man' Grondona

Reuters

BUENOS AIRES, Aug 1 (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter attended the funeral on Friday of Julio Grondona, the Argentine FA chief he called his "right hand man", along with Argentina captain Lionel Messi.

Grondona, who died of heart failure on Wednesday at the age of 82, was buried at the family tomb in a cemetery in his home suburb of Avellaneda on the edge of Buenos Aires.

"A unique person, who moulded a generation of directors in world football, has gone," Blatter was quoted telling local media about FIFA's senior vice-president Grondona.

Blatter said the Argentine was his "right-hand man" and friend and whenever he was faced with a big decision the Swiss said he "looked at Grondona's face."

Grondona, who took office in 1979 and ruled the Argentine game like a fiefdom, was often called "The Godfather" and had huge influence at world soccer's governing body.

He could have run for the FIFA presidency in 1998 but was reported to have backed Blatter, the world body's general secretary under ex-president Joao Havelange, out of loyalty.

Messi cut short his post-World Cup holidays to fly to Buenos Aires, arriving early on Friday morning, and was due to return to Barcelona the same night. (Reporting by Luis Ampuero; Writing by Rex Gowar)

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