Blatter comes out fighting despite scandal & divisions

Blatter says he will take responsibility for the bribery scandal but can't carry the obligation alone.

FILE: Fifa President Sepp Blatter. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Fifa President Sepp Blatter says he will take responsibility for the bribery scandal but that he can't carry the obligation alone.

Blatter was re-elected as Fifa president for a fifth time last night in Zurich despite a corruption cloud hanging over the federation.

This week, officials found themselves embroiled in two investigations, one by the US Department Of Justice that has alleged South Africa rigged their right to host the 2010 World Cup, the other is by Swiss authorities into the awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

Blatter addressed the media just a short while ago saying Fifa will continue to fight for what is right.

"I am here as President of Fifa and I will continue my work and we will continue to fight for good things."

He says his re-election last night shows that people still trust him.

"It is now my duty to live up to a lot of responsibilities to fix the situation and recover our reputation but I'm not alone, the executive committee has said they are with me."


In an interview late on Friday, he showed few signs of wanting to unite one of the world's most powerful sports bodies that takes in billions of dollars in revenue from television marketing rights and sponsorships.

"No one is going to take it off me that it was a simple coincidence (that) this American attack (happened) two days before the elections of Fifa," Blatter told the RTS Swiss television channel in an interview.

"Why didn't they (the police) do this in March when we had the same meeting? At that time, we had less journalists."

In a dawn swoop on a Zurich hotel on Wednesday, Swiss police arrested seven leading football officials, including Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb.

The arrests were connected to a bribery scandal being investigated by US, Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged Fifa into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

Blatter also singled out Uefa, whose president Michel Platini had called for his resignation.

"It is a hate not only by one person of Uefa but by the organisation of Uefa that has not understood that I have been president since 1998," Blatter said. "I forgive everyone but I don't forget."


Blatter has not been implicated in any wrongdoing, but having ruled Fifa for nearly 20 years during which it has regularly been subject to suspicions of graft, his critics have argued it was time for him to step down.

His supporters welcomed the outcome of a vote that pitted the veteran incumbent against a sole challenger, 39-year-old Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan.

"The AFC (Asian Football Confederation) has always supported the Fifa President and we are happy to continue working with him and FIFA to further develop Asian and world football into the future," Asian football chief Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said on Saturday.

That support reflects Blatter's success in expanding Fifa's membership away from football's heartlands and in exploiting resentment in Africa and Asia over the perceived arrogance of the game's powerhouse nations in Europe and South America.

Despite Blatter's re-election, the scandal surrounding the investigations into corruption looks set to rumble on.

Platini has raised the possibility, albeit slim, of Europe boycotting the World Cup tournament, football's showcase played every four years.

There has also been talk of UEFA breaking away from Fifa, although that is also seen as unlikely.

England's Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, another vocal critic of Blatter, said the row within Fifa was unlikely to end with Friday's vote.

His vice-chairman David Gill confirmed on Saturday he would not take up his post on Fifa's executive committee.

"The terribly damaging events of the last three days have convinced me it is not appropriate to be a member of the Fifa executive committee under the current leadership," he said.


Blatter's future could yet depend on the reaction of Fifa's major sponsors and stakeholders such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's who have been dismayed by the arrests and US prosecutors announcing indictments of officials and companies.

A senior US Internal Revenue Service official said on Friday he thought there would be further indictments, the New York Times reported, although he declined to identify the remaining targets of the investigation.

Swiss prosecutors are investigating the award of the World Cup finals to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, decisions that have deepened rifts within Fifa.

The choice of Qatar, a small desert state where summer daytime temperatures rarely fall below 40 degrees Celsius, was especially contentious and went against the advice of Fifa's own technical committee.

Russia and Qatar deny wrongdoing in their bids to host the prestigious tournament, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of meddling in an effort to force Blatter out.

When asked after the vote if he could guarantee the next World Cup would still be staged in Russia, Fifa's secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters: "Yes, yes. I mean now today, if you ask me the question at twenty to eight, yes the World Cup will be played in Russia and Qatar."

Away from the crisis engulfing football's administration, the under-20 World Cup got underway in New Zealand, and more than 25,000 people turned up in Auckland for the opening game.

And preparations for the Women's World Cup, which opens in Canada on June 6, continued with a friendly between the hosts and England before a sellout crowd in Hamilton, Ontario.

"For these women, it is not about the money, it's about the game, it renews your faith," said England supporter Kevin Mackowski. "And it's good football, it's a truly beautiful game."