Blatter defies calls to quit as FIFA president

Decision to seek fifth term confirmed along with admission of “unprecedented” times for world football’s governing body.

Defying calls to quit, Sepp Blatter has confirmed his decision to seek a fifth term as the president of global football’s governing FIFA in Friday’s election.

Speaking at the opening of the FIFA Congress in Zurich on Thursday, Blatter called the scandal “unprecedented and difficult” but refused to step down despite being asked to do so by Michel Platini, president of European football’s governing body UEFA.

Blatter’s public absence

Blatter’s remarks were the first since the arrests of high-ranking FIFA officials for corruption and bribery on Wednesday in Zurich, with separate investigations launched in the US and Switzerland.

“The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week’s congress,” Blatter said.

“These are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA. The actions of individuals have proven to bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all.

“We can’t allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer. It has to be stopped once and for all. Let this be the turning point.”

FIFA’s 209 members will vote in Friday’s elections, with a two-thirds majority needed to win on the first ballot.

If that does not happen, then a straight majority is required to win a second ballot.

Platini’s remarks

Platini delivered an emotional performance earlier in the day when he said it was time for FIFA’s 79-year-old Swiss head to quit.

His remarks came after a majority of UEFA’s member associations said they would vote for Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein as the next FIFA president in Friday’s elections.

“I have affection for Mr Blatter, and he always said he was like an uncle to me but enough is enough,” Platini said.

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“If I cannot tell him it is time to stop then who can? A true friend can tell another friend the reality.”

Platini said that during Thursday’s emergency meeting, he asked Blatter to step down.

“I said, ‘I’m asking you to leave, FIFA’s image is terrible,'” Platini said.

“He said that he couldn’t leave all of a sudden.

“I’m saying this with sadness and tears in my eyes, but there have been too many scandals. FIFA doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”

Platini hoped that 45 or 46 of Europe’s eligible 53 voting nations would vote for Ali.

“Prince Ali has all the legitimacy he needs – he is young, he is ambitious and that is why I support him,” Platini said.

“He can do some good, he can change things, he doesn’t need money because he is a prince.

“A very large majority of national associations from Europe will vote for Prince Ali, and if they are to be trusted, I believe he will get 45 or 46 votes from Europe. I’m trying to convince a couple who are not convinced.”

Those votes would not be enough to topple Blatter but would send a strong signal of disapproval.

‘Enough is enough’

Asked if he realistically believed that Blatter could lose the vote, Platini replied: “I think he can be beaten, yes. Before yesterday no, but after what happened yesterday, yes. Enough is enough. I think there will be a lot of changes.”

Blatter’s leadership has gained a strong ally, however, in the form of Vladimir Putin, with the Russian president calling the developments “an attempt to block the re-election of Blatter as president of FIFA”.

“This is an extremely serious breach of the principles of how international organisations work,” Putin said in televised comments broadcast on Thursday.

“This is yet another blatant attempt [by the US] to extend its jurisdiction to other states.”

Blatter, left, and Putin met in April to discuss preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia [EPA]
Blatter, left, and Putin met in April to discuss preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia [EPA]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies