London Evening Standard

Sepp Blatter was fighting for his future as the head of world football today, as he admitted the dramatic events of the last 48 hours had “unleashed a storm” against Fifa.

Blatter made a call for unity as he addressed Fifa Congress here at the start of a day which he hoped would end with him being voted in for a fifth term as president of the governing body.

Although Blatter was favourite to defeat Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, the arrest of seven top Fifa officials as part of a corruption probe has dented his standing. Even if Blatter wins the election, he has a huge job to regain the support of the 209 confederations.

In his opening remarks to Fifa delegates, Blatter said: “The events of this week unleashed a storm. It was even questioned whether this Congress would go ahead but I am appealing for unity and team spirit to tackle the problems.

“It will not be done in a day, it will take time. The important point is to tackle the problems that have been created and to solve them. It will not be done in a single day, it will take some time. The important point today is to move ahead — and the important point is transparency. We have a problem to solve.

“Where does Fifa stand in the world? It is the fight against corruption. It is the fight against match-fixing. I would like that discipline, respect and fair play reigns supreme today in this room. Let’s show to the world we are able to run our institution Fifa — and we can do it together.”

Blatter, who was speaking in French today having addressed the delegates in English last night, went on: “I appeal to you to put Fifa back on the right track to where the boat will stop rocking and go placidly into port.

“You can’t just ask people to behave ethically just like that. Those who are at fault are individuals, not the entire organisation.

“We cannot let the reputation of Fifa be dragged through the mud. We have reached a turning point.”

Amid the build-up to the election, Uefa president Michel Platini appealed to Blatter to step down — calls the president rejected.

“I am willing to accept the president of FIFA is responsible for everything but I would at least like to share that responsibility with everyone,” said Blatter. “We cannot constantly supervise everyone in football … you cannot ask everyone to behave ethically.”

The election of the president was being decided by a vote of Fifa’s 209 associations with Blatter and Prince Ali needing a two-thirds majority in the first round to be declared the winner.

The remarkable events of the last 48 hours has seen some associations switch their support from Blatter to Prince Ali, with the United States, Canada and New Zealand among those to change allegiance.

Crucially, Blatter has the backing of  the Asian and African confederations although the majority of Uefa’s 53 members will be supporting his Jordanian rival.


Incredibly, Blatter told Congress that Fifa’s crisis would not have happened if countries other than Russia and Qatar had won the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Most of the media investigations into Fifa have come from Britain, while it is the American justice authorities that sparked the crisis.

The United States was one of the losing bidders for the 2022 World Cup while England missed out on the 2018 finals. On Wednesday, US authorities indicted 14 people on bribery, racketeering, fraud and money-laundering charges going back to the 1990s.

Blatter said: “If two other countries had emerged from the envelope I think we may not have these problems. But we can’t go back in time, we’re not prophets, we can’t say what would have happened.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday criticised the American indictments and claimed they were designed to undermine Blatter’s re-election.

Blatter added of the police swoop on Wednesday: “I am not going to use the word coincidence but I do have a small question mark.”

The meeting in Zurich was briefly disrupted by two protesters who unfurled a Palestinian flag — the Palestinian FA have demanded Israel be kicked out of FIFA — before they were removed by security.

There was a moment of farce this morning as the voting mechanism was tested. The Fifa delegates were asked who won the World Cup but only 95 per cent of them correctly answered Germany.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Brazil’s Fifa executive committee Marco Polo Del Nero left Switzerland ahead of the Congress. Del Nero’s return to Brazil followed the arrest of Jose Maria Marin, his predecessor as Brazilian FA president. Marin is one of seven Fifa officials facing extradition to the USA on corruption charges.


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