Meet the unreal Sepp Blatter

In this month's FourFourTwo we interview five of the finest fakes on Twitter, from Berbatov to Blatter. This week on we'll bring you the full interviews – starting with FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, as portrayed by Texan photocopier service specialist Zach Woosley...

FFT: When did you decide to make the fake Sepp account? And why?Zach: It started as a joke, around the 2010 World Cup I believe. The level of frustration with Sepp Blatter ranges from comical remarks to outright anger. I thought it would be fun to make comments about him through an environment like Twitter. It started out as a joke; then people started paying attention to it and follow it, which surprised me because it was just me having fun.

FFT: So are you a big football fan or did you see an opportunity because people find Blatter particularly interesting?Zach: Oh no, I’m a big soccer fan. Here in the US I blog about soccer for, so I’m very much into the sport.

FFT: So what do you do as a job? And how much time do you dedicate to the Blatter account? Zach: My real job in life is working in a copy machine servicing company. It’s usually one of those things were I don’t devote a ton of time to it, I’ll be on twitter a lot. So I’ll look for a story that involves Sepp Blatter and if I see he says something about it I'll spend a few minutes trying to say a few funny things. If I get bored, sometimes I’ll jump on Twitter and see what people are saying about it – search his name and if people are making fun of him or blaming him it’s fun to respond to active people.

FFT: Do you feel a responsibility to update every so often or is it whenever the mood takes you?Zach: I try to say something at least once every couple of days. The key to Twitter is to remain interesting. If you disappear people lose interest and it’s not fun anymore, but if people feel you're interacting with them and they might get a response… Twitter is cool in the sense that the bigger the account gets the more followers it gets, the more followers it gets the more fun it is to get retweeted or be talked to by bigger accounts. Part of its fun is that if people enjoy it and get a laugh out of it, then for me I feel responsible to make sure that it's active.

FFT: With that in mind do you ever feel nervous about having to impress? You could argue you’re a comedian, in a way…Zach: Yeah, I sometimes try to be offensive in a comedic way: I've been making a few comments about members of the World Cup. I have a great respect for everyone in soccer but if Sepp Blatter could really say something then what might he say? There's pressure to be funny and to entertain and it's lucky that I seem to be decent at it because people are laughing and following so obviously I’m doing something right.

But I do worry. I’ll sit there, and I’ll work on a tweet and think "Is this funny? Are people gonna like it?" It's a nice feeling when people react to it. When they don’t, you think "Maybe that wasn’t so funny, let’s try something else."

FFT: Do you feel like it's trying to get inside Blatter’s mind? Is it important to set it up so it's feasibly said by Blatter? What’s that balance between the ridiculous and the believable?Zach: Yeah, sometimes you just wanna be ridiculous because you wanna get a point across, For the most part, I’d like to think there’s a level of comedic realism to it: the idea that you could say "I can see him saying that… how great would it be if he did?"

FFT: Has anyone ever thought you were the real Blatter? Zach: When I started the account it was actually called @FIFASepp, and I'd get angry tweets from people calling you names and expressing exactly how they felt about Blatter. So at first – and even sometimes now – you’ll get someone tweeting at the account and you’ll say "Do they realise it's fake?" I think they're probably being funny, but sometimes the written format is tougher.

FFT: When people thought you were the real Blatter, was it drawing a lot of hate and ranting?Zach: Yeah! The interesting thing was you’d get reactions from everyone: American fans, English fans, others… I get tweets that have to be translated. But that’s the one element that has kind of gone away since the name change. Every once in a while, you can mess a little bit with people who may have thought that it was a real person but I think it's made the account better becoming fake: people take it less seriously and I think it allows them to relax and have more fun with it.

FFT: Have you had any criticism since people realised you were fake? Sometimes parody accounts get abuse for taking the mick…Zach: Even though I'm sure at some level there are things that he has done that have benefited and helped the game, everything negative has changed everybody's opinion about him that he's almost the perfect guy to parody. Going after somebody that is universally disliked, you don’t have to deal with people who would be upset.

The only thing I've had is an automated email from Twitter: your name's been reported, you could be impersonating a real person, and you have x amount of days to change the name to something else and we will let the account continue. So I made the change and haven’t had a single word since. I think they realise the parody is a part of the Twitter world, as long as you're acting and not trying to portray yourself as that person.

FFT: What do you think Sepp would make of the account himself?Zach: I'd like to think that if he did he'd have a laugh and realise that people were having fun. Then again you never know, he's so universally disliked that it's hard to put yourself in that position, where virtually everything said and written about you is negative. But I’d like to think that maybe he sees it and gets a kick out of it because that would make it even more worthwhile – not that I'm trying to please SB, but if you're gonna parody somebody you'd hope to do it in a way that they might appreciate.

FFT: Is there one tweet you are especially proud of? Or indeed any you regret?Zach: I don’t think there’s anything I really regretted because I've been careful never to try to personally attack anyone. Even when I'm picking on somebody who has said something to the account I'm always trying to make it funny – I don’t want people to get the idea that it is spiteful or mean.

FFT: What do you make of the other fake football twitter accounts? Do you ever communicate with the people behind them? Or have any views on them?Zach: Occasionally you'll run into them – they'll tweet me and I’ll tweet back – but in a lot of cases I'm not impressed by them: I don’t think they're that funny. Then again, it’s a personal thing: if you really don’t like the person, and your expectation is to go out there and make them sound rude or disgusting, not everybody may agree with that but that’s your right to do so. In the end, I'm trying to entertain people. Because I'm not making money or getting fans, the fact you guys are talking to me about it cracks me up! It's cool, but I'm doing it for fun – it's growing well beyond anything I thought it would ever be.

FFT: Some fakes are just too crude. What does make a successful parody?Zach: Some people like that humor and that works, but in the more public format that’s not generally creative: anyone can curse or say something offensive, but to say something funny  without having to resort to dropping foul language or saying disgusting things requires a higher level of creativity.

Also I think it’s a matter of being consistent, making sure that you're keeping it updated and responding. I've seen some which never seem to interact with people. But you know that’s what people need do to make it seem real – it makes it seem alive. I think that would increase the popularity of it. One of the best ones going is the fake Dimitar Berbatov. They’re interacting with people, saying things that are absurd, but it's not like a shock guy. It's just being funny and you can look into it and see the person saying that, or like to think that’s how they would act.

FEATURE, Mon 1 Aug: Meet the unreal Dimitar Berbatov

FFT: What was it like starting up for you? Is it a slow process? Drawing followers or does it roll quite quickly?Zach: It’s kinda slow, you start it but there’s so much going on on Twitter – that’s the funny thing about it. I use Twitter primarily for following soccer, for my writing; you get focused into that little world and you don’t really expand beyond that.I've found that the best way is to follow people that you know, or talk to, that tweet a lot and are active, who people follow. And you hope that maybe they will follow you or retweet something you say.

That’s the key: you've gotta get noticed – I've been helped immensely by several football writers here in America especially, who have caught onto the account and retweeted it and all it takes is a couple big accounts with a lot of followers to catch one of your good tweets and send it out to their followers and that helps get it going. You’ll be taking your time and then all of a sudden it picks up. Once a couple of big-name accounts retweet or someone writes about you, then it starts picking up steam real quick.

FFT: One last question: What does the future hold for the Fake Sepp Blatter?Zach: That’s the only thing about Fake Sepp that’s bad: once he leaves FIFA, he’s already said he thinks there’s going to be a lot of turmoil. I think at that point the account starts to lose a little of its potential because as long as he is at the head of FIFA then he’s in the news and he’s relevant. The time it really gets fun is when major events are going on. I’d like to hopefully make it through maybe one more World Cup...

For more from the fake Tweeters – including exclusive portraits of the men behind the accounts – see the September issue of FourFourTwo magazine