Fifa prez Blatter rejects calls to quit ahead of re-election vote

Amid corruption charges and arrests of top officials, world football's governing body, Fifa, will vote on Friday to elect its president.
Updated on May 31, 2015 08:04 PM IST
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Reuters | By, Zurich/wellington

Amid corruption charges and arrests of top officials, world football's governing body, Fifa, will vote on Friday to elect its president.

The 209 member organisation is divided between embattled president Sepp Blatter and Jordan's Prince Ali bin al Hussein.

Asia and Africa have reiterated their support for Blatter who is seeking a fifth term. He is also likely to get the backing of South America, but has already lost the support of Europe's governing body Uefa, while Australia, the United States and Canada have also said they would vote for Prince Ali.

India’s vote in the FIFA presidential elections in Zurich on Friday will likely go to him.

But Blatter can no longer rely on iron-clad support from the Oceania Football Confederation with New Zealand reviewing its backing for the Swiss in his re-election bid.

All 11 member nations of the OFC had pledged to back Blatter at their January congress in Papua New Guinea, but New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin cast doubt on the bloc's unity amid the unfolding corruption scandal.

"It's every man for himself," Martin told New Zealand media from Zurich.

"We have done very well under the current regime but that doesn't mean things can't change.

"We have to assess the merits of both candidates. We are here trying to do the best we can for football in New Zealand. We are mindful we have to get this right."

Blatter has ignored calls to stand down as FIFA reels from the arrests of seven high-ranking officials in Zurich on bribery charges at the request of US authorities.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Blatter said the corruption charges engulfing world soccer's governing body have heaped shame and humiliation on the game. At the same time, he flatly rejected calls to resign over the widening scandal.

With Fifa facing the worst crisis in its 111-year history, Michel Platini, who heads Europe's soccer confederation UEFA, said he had told Blatter to go "with tears in my eyes", but the 79-year-old had refused.

"I said, 'I'm asking you to leave, FIFA's image is terrible.' He said that he couldn't leave all of a sudden," Platini, a former French international, told reporters.

In a bullish speech opening a Fifa Congress in Zurich, Blatter said the turbulence of the last two days, which included the arrest of leading soccer officials at their luxury Swiss hotel, had brought "shame and humiliation" to world soccer.

Making his first public appearance since Wednesday's dramatic events, which were triggered by a US-led investigation into allegations of rampant bribe-taking, Blatter said there was no room "for corruption of any kind".

"The events of (Wednesday) have cast a long shadow over football and this Congress," said Blatter.

Ignoring calls to step down, Blatter said: "I know many people hold me ultimately responsible ... (but) I cannot monitor everyone all the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it."

Platini said 45 or 46 of Uefa's 53 member associations would vote for Prince Ali. But it appeared that Blatter still commanded enough of Fifa's 209 national associations to secure victory.

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