Blatter defiant as re-election vote looms

Blatter defiant as re-election vote looms
FIFA President Sepp Blatter (2nd R) attends a media conference in Sao Paulo June 5, 2014.

ZURICH - FIFA boss Sepp Blatter headed into a re-election vote Friday adamant that only he can clean up football's corruption-tainted headquarters, to the dismay of many as calls mounted for his resignation.

Blatter opened FIFA's annual congress by saying he could "not monitor everyone all of the time", rejecting blame after a dramatic week that saw several arrests and the opening of criminal investigations.

"The next few months will not be easy for FIFA. I am sure more bad news will follow but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organisation," the 79-year-old president said Thursday.

"It must ultimately fall to me to bear the responsibility for the reputation and well-being of our organisation, and to ultimately find a way to move forward and fix things," Blatter added.

He called the scandals "unprecedented" and said the "actions of individuals bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all".

Blatter spoke hours after a showdown with European football chief Michel Platini, who called on him to quit despite support for the FIFA chief from Asia and Africa.

Demands for action came also from governments in Europe. British Prime Minister David Cameron backed calls by the English Football Association for Blatter to resign, Cameron's spokesman said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that if world football can't clear up "poisonous" corruption, government agencies would be forced to step in.

'Sickened'

Platini said he confronted Blatter at an emergency meeting of the heads of FIFA's six regional confederations.

The UEFA president said he was "sickened" and "disgusted" at the arrests of seven top football officials and a raid by Swiss police on FIFA headquarters as part of a corruption inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Those arrested in Zurich are among 14 people accused in a US federal indictment of taking more than $150 million in bribes.

"Today I have come to ask you to quit FIFA, to resign from FIFA, to leave FIFA because its image is bad and we can no longer go on like this," Platini said he told Blatter in front of the other presidents.

Blatter only replied in a private conversation after. "He told me: 'Michel, we know each other well, but it's too late. I cannot leave today when the congress starts this afternoon'." Blatter remains the favourite to extend his 17-year rule over the world's most popular sport.

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