Wednesday 20 November 2019

I can't monitor everyone all the time, says Fifa chief

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks at the opening ceremony of the FIFA congress in Zurich, Switzerland. Photo: AP
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks at the opening ceremony of the FIFA congress in Zurich, Switzerland. Photo: AP
An activist (L) wears a giant mask depicting FIFA President Joseph Blatter inside a cage during a protest by the organisation prior to the 65th FIFA Congress at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland yesterday.
President Putin

Ernest Cravitz in Zurich

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has condemned the "action of individuals" for bringing "shame and humiliation" on football.

But he said that although many held him "ultimately responsible" for Fifa's actions, he could "not monitor everyone all of the time".

He was speaking at the opening of Fifa's congress, a day after seven top officials were held in a US inquiry.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Fifa congress in Zurich, Mr Blatter said the events of the week had "cast a long shadow over football".

He said: "The actions of individuals bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all.

"We cannot allow the reputation of football to be dragged through the mud and it has to stop here, now.

"Many people hold me ultimately responsible for the global football community... I cannot monitor everyone all the time. If people want to do wrong they will also try to hide it."

Mr Blatter said he hoped this would be a turning point for corruption.

"We must earn trust back through the decisions we make," he said.

Last night, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Mr Blatter to resign, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed him for a fifth term. The head of European football's governing body Uefa, Michel Platini, later said that if Mr Blatter were re-elected, Uefa might have to discuss its relations with Fifa.

Key sponsors have expressed concern over twin corruption investigations by both the US and Swiss authorities.

A majority of UEFA's member associations will vote for Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein to succeed Mr Blatter as the next Fifa president, Mr Platini warned yesterday.

"A large majority of the European associations will all vote for Prince Ali," Mr Platini said that during yesterday morning's emergency meeting at Fifa, he told Mr Blatter to step down in light of the scandal that has engulfed the world soccer body.

"I said, I'm asking you to leave, Fifa's image is terrible. He said that he couldn't leave all of a sudden."

Mr Platini added: "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 that way."

Reports suggest the under-fire Fifa chief was asked to resign by his Uefa counterpart in a private meeting. Mr Blatter (79) is seeking a fifth term in office as he prepares to go head to head with Prince Ali in Fifa's presidential election tomorrow

Yesterday, in London, a spokesman for Mr Cameron said that he believes there is a strong case for a change of leadership at soccer's world governing body.

"He (Cameron) does think there's a very - in diplomatic speak - a very, very strong case for a change of leadership," the spokesman told reporters.

The BBC have reported that the former France international - who is widely seen as the man most likely to succeed Mr Blatter, assuming Prince Ali's bid fails - told Mr Blatter to his face in a private meeting that he should quit.

Mr Blatter, however, is alleged to have refused Mr Platini's request, which came after an emergency meeting of Mr Blatter and Fifa's six continental heads in Zurich.

On another day of fast-moving developments, former Manchester United chief executive David Gill said that he will resign from Fifa's executive committee if Mr Blatter is re-elected, according to the Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney.

Mr Gill had been set to take a place on the Exco as England's representative when Congress meets to decide the future president later today, but he now appears certain not to join, given Mr Blatter is widely expected to be re-elected. Mr Blatter's enduring support among his powerbase in Africa and Asia was underlined by Guinea-Bissau FA president Manuel Nascimento Lopes, who said it was "blasphemy" to blame Mr Blatter for the conduct of others.

"I'm a Christian and this is blasphemy," Mr Nascimento Lopes said. "It's a state conspiracy. People are always trying to knock Blatter. Africa will vote for Mr Blatter and I will follow that. I agree at some point there has to be change but let Blatter finish his mandate and see what he does.

"It's not all about the major European football countries. If you point three fingers at someone, there is always one you point at yourself. We are going to vote for Blatter. How do we know anyone else would be any better? I am one of the most anti-corruption people you could meet. No one can bribe me. Blatter had a team and if the team is not perfect, why should the leadership suffer? Secondly, this has nothing to do with Africa."

Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the US of meddling in Fifa's affairs and hinted that it was part of an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country.


Mr Putin said in televised comments that he found it "odd" that the probe was launched at the request of US officials for crimes which do not involve its citizens and did not happen in the US.

Corruption charges in the US were announced on Wednesday against 14 people, with at least two of them holding American citizenship, and linking them to banks in the US.

Seven of the 14 were arrested on Wednesday morning in Zurich ahead of a Fifa meeting and today's presidential election, in which Sepp Blatter is expected to win a fifth term.

In a separate probe, Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into Fifa's awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. Mr Putin said even if "someone has done something wrong," Russia "has nothing to do with it."

He then tried to portray the probe as a US attempt to go after dissenters, likening the case to the persecution of whistleblowers Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

"Our American counterparts, unfortunately, are using the same methods to reach their goals and illegally persecute people. I don't rule out that this is the case in relation to Fifa," Mr Putin said.

"I have no doubt that this is yet another evident attempt to derail Mr Blatter's re-election as Fifa president.

"We are aware of the pressure that he was subjected to in relation to Russia holding the 2018 World Cup."

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, however, who is also a Fifa executive committee member and is in Zurich for the governing body's congress and presidential election, said on Wednesday that his country welcomed the investigation.

Irish Independent

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