Sepp Blatter: Europe’s ‘hate’ campaign against Fifa


Fifa president Sepp Blatter has condemned what he described as a “hate” campaign against football’s world governing body by European officials.

And he said he was “shocked” by the comments of US prosecutors following the arrests of Fifa officials under an American anti-corruption warrant.

The 79-year-old Swiss was re-elected on Friday at a Fifa congress in Zurich.

European football governing body Uefa’s president Michel Platini had urged Mr Blatter to step down ahead of the vote.

Mr Blatter’s rival, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, forced a second round of voting on Friday but then withdrew. Mr Blatter won 133 to Prince Ali’s 73 in the first round, just short of the 140 votes needed for an outright win.

On Wednesday, US prosecutors indicted 14 Fifa officials and associates, with seven arrested in a dawn raid at an upmarket hotel in Zurich. They are accused of bribery, racketeering and money-laundering involving tens of millions of dollars since 1991.

Meanwhile, Swiss authorities have launched a separate criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar.

At the scene: Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Zurich

Sepp Blatter was brimming with confidence after his election for a fifth term as Fifa present.

Asked about damage to Fifa’s image because of the many allegations of corruption, he blamed the media for exaggerating the crisis, saying Fifa remained well regarded, most especially in Asia and Africa.

Responding to criticism of his personal leadership, he said: “I’ve just been elected tor a fifth term, there can’t be that much wrong with me.”

But beneath the ebullience, Fifa and its president have a lot of work to do. European football associations, who had demanded Mr Blatter’s resignation, are still considering their response to his re-election.

And Fifa and its officials now face two major international investigations into corruption and bribery. US and Swiss prosecutors have suggested there may be more arrests to come.

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Spelling out details of the US case earlier this week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said: “They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.”

Ahead of Mr Blatter’s comments on Saturday, US tax official Richard Weber told The New York Times he was “fairly confident that we will have another round of indictments”._83315613_027450564-1

But in an uncompromising interview with Swiss television station RTS on Saturday, Mr Blatter said he suspected the arrests were an attempt to “interfere with the congress” at which he was re-elected. “I am not certain, but it doesn’t smell good,” he said.

He noted that the US had lost out in the bidding for the 2022 World Cup to Qatar while England, another major critic, had lost out to Russia for the right to hold the 2018 World Cup – and that the US was the “number-one sponsor” of the state of Jordan, the homeland of defeated challenger for the Fifa presidency.

He also condemned the comments made by Ms Lynch and other US prosecutors, one of whom referred to a “World Cup of fraud”.

Mr Blatter said: “Of course I am shocked. I would never as Fifa president make comments about another organisation without being certain of what has happened.”

Mr Blatter was widely supported in Africa and Asia, and his re-election was welcomed by the hosts of the next World Cup, Russia – with President Vladimir Putin sending Mr Blatter a telegram of congratulation.

However, many European football associations have reacted with concern to Mr Blatter’s re-election.

Uefa had backed Prince Ali, with Mr Platini describing his candidacy as “a movement for change at Fifa”.

In an apparent reference to Mr Platini’s call for him to resign, Mr Blatter said: “It is a hate that comes not just from a person at Uefa, it comes from the Uefa organisation that cannot understand that in 1998 I became president.”

Asked whether he would forgive Mr Platini for the calling on him to step down, Mr Blatter said: “I forgive everyone, but I do not forget.”

European football associations will meet at next week’s Champions League final in Berlin to discuss their next move.

Europe’s seat at the next meeting of Fifa’s powerful executive committee will be empty, as newly appointed representative David Gill has confirmed he will not take up his post following Mr Blatter’s re-election.

The 57-year-old Englishman, chief executive of Manchester United from 2003 to 2013, said in a statement: “This action is not something I take lightly but 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,” Gill said

“I do recognise that Mr Blatter has been democratically elected and wish Fifa every success in tackling the many troubling issues it faces. However, my professional reputation is critical to me and I simply do not see how there will be change for the good of world football while Mr Blatter remains in post.”

Sepp Blatter in his own words:

“I am the president now, the president of everybody” – on his re-election for a fifth term in office

“The unity of action and time, a classic tragedy of Greece in which we never know how it will end” – his description of football

“I’d say they should refrain from any sexual activities” – when asked if he foresaw any cultural problems for gay people at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (apparently this was a joke)

“This is a special approach in the Anglo-Saxon countries. If this had happened in, let’s say, Latin countries then I think he would have been applauded” – on John Terry’s removal as England team captain following an alleged affair in 2010

“I could understand it if it had happened in Africa, but not in Italy” – on the 2006 match-fixing scandal in Italy

“I think in football there’s too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players, and putting them somewhere” – on Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2008

“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” – on women’s football, in 2004.

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