Blatter slams Europe's 'hate' campaign

2015-05-30 22:16
Sepp Blatter (AFP)

Zurich - FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Saturday said he was "shocked" at the way the US judiciary has targeted football's world body and slammed what he called a "hate" campaign by Europe's football leaders.

Blatter said he suspected the arrest of seven FIFA officials this week under a US anti-corruption warrant was an attempt to "interfere with the congress" at which he was elected to a fifth term on Friday.

He also denied he was the FIFA official that US investigators say authorized a $10 million payment to a disgraced former FIFA vice president.

While US officials have said more indictments in their investigation are likely, Blatter said he believes there is a deliberate campaign against FIFA including the arrests just two days before the vote.

"There are signs which cannot be mistaken: the Americans were candidates for the 2022 World Cup and they lost," he told Swiss television channel RTS.

"I am not certain, but it doesn't smell good."

He also said the United States was the "number one sponsor" of Jordan, home country of his challenger for the FIFA presidency, Prince Ali bin al Hussein.

The Jordanian, who had the backing of European football body UEFA, withdrew from Friday's race after the first round of voting.

The seven arrested officials were all detained for corruption cases in North and South America and Blatter said they could have been arrested on their home territory.

He also condemned comments about FIFA made by senior members of the US judiciary, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who lamented the "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted" corruption in football. Another official spoke of a "World Cup of fraud."

"Of course I am shocked," Blatter responded. "I would never as FIFA president make comments about another organisation without being certain of what has happened."

US authorities have so far indicted 14 people, including the seven held in Zurich, on charges of involvement in $150m of bribes for sports media contracts. They include two FIFA vice presidents.

Richard Weber, head of the Internal Revenue Service criminal investigations unit, said he was "fairly confident" more indictments would follow.

Blatter told a press conference Saturday he had been hurt by the corruption scandal.

"I have been affected by what has happened and I have been hurt by the attacks," he said.

He played down the significance of the attacks for FIFA and also denied having authorized a payment to disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, one of those indicted.

The US indictment says in 2008 a "high ranking FIFA official" authorized a 10 million dollar payment to Warner, a former head of the North and Central American confederation, which was money intended as a bribe.

Blatter said: "I don't go into these allegations. If such a thing is under investigation let it go (on) and definitely that's not me."

Blatter also hit out at UEFA and its president, Michel Platini, who had called for his resignation over the corruption scandals.

"It is a hate that comes not just from one person at UEFA, it comes from the UEFA organisation that cannot understand that in 1998 I became president," he added in the interview.

Asked whether he would forgive Platini, Blatter said "I forgive everyone but I do not forget."

His re-election marked a dramatic end to a bitter campaign dominated by corruption allegations.

Blatter vowed to leave a "strong" FIFA when he leaves in four years.

"I'm not perfect. Nobody is perfect. But we will do a good job together," he said.

European football leaders expressed concern at Blatter's win and have hinted they could take new action against FIFA.

English Football Association Greg Dyke indicated England could be ready to back a European boycott of the World Cup.

English representative on the FIFA executive, David Gill, has said he will not take up the place because of Blatter's victory.

"I am proud that UEFA has defended and supported a movement for change at FIFA. Change which in my opinion is crucial if this organisation is to regain its credibility," Platini said.

He said UEFA could discuss measures against FIFA on June 6.

US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said he would continue to push for "meaningful change" within FIFA.

Sponsors and government leaders have hammered FIFA over the corruption scandal.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has backed calls for Blatter to resign while French President Francois Hollande said sports groups running major events must be "irreproachable".

FIFA sponsors Coca-Cola, Budweiser and McDonald's called after the election result for quick moves to transparency.

Credit card giant Visa has threatened to "reassess" its sponsorship if FIFA does not clean up its act.

Blatter said he was organising a personal visit to sponsors in a bid to reassure them.

Read more on:    fifa  |  sepp blatter  |  soccer  |  fifa bribery scandal

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