Sepp Blatter speaks on FIFA corruption scandal in last public appearance before FIFA re-election
Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term as FIFA president in Friday’s presidential elections, spoke at the opening of the FIFA Congress in Zurich, seen making his first public comments since the Swiss police, at the request of American authorities, arrested a group of senior FIFA officials on Wednesday.
“We cannot allow the reputation of FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer,” Mr. Blatter said. “It has to stop here and now.”
“The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football, and over this week’s Congress. The actions of individuals, if proven, bring shame and humiliation on football and demand reaction from us all.”
“I know a lot of people hold me responsible for the actions and reputations of the global football community, whether it is the decision of hosting a World Cup or a corruption scandal,” he said.
“We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it. But it must also fall to me to be responsible for the reputation of our entire organization, and to find a way to fix things.
“I will not allow the actions of a few to damage the reputation of FIFA.”
“There can be no place for corruption of any kind,” Mr. Blatter said. “The next few months will not be easy for FIFA. I’m sure more bad news may follow. But it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organization. Let this be the turning point.”
Blatter can be defeated on strength of latest scandal: Platini
Blatter is largely expected to retain the President’s seat on Friday because of the unwavering support provided to his candidacy by the African, Asian and South American football federations. The European federation continue to oppose him, as they had done before the scandal broke out, putting their weight behind Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, a younger, reform-minded member of FIFA’s executive committee.
UEFA President Michel Platini said that 45 to 46 of its 53 members would vote for Prince Ali, insisting he believed that Mr. Blatter could be defeated after being engulfed by the scandal. “Before what happened yesterday, no,” Mr. Platini told reporters. “But after what happened recently, I think enough is enough and a number of people think likewise. There is a radical change in the mind-set of a number of heads of associations.”
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia entered the debate surrounding the recent scandal as well, accusing the United States of intervening outside its jurisdiction by pursuing the case against senior FIFA officials, “another blatant attempt by the United States to extend its jurisdiction to other states.”
The 79-year-old Blatter has been at FIFA for 40 years, the past 17 of them as president – his reign has been praised for extending the global reach of football, but criticised for making the world football body a less transparent one and fostering an atmosphere for corruption to thrive.