Blatter calls for 'integrity'
Sepp Blatter (AFP)
Sao Paulo - FIFA leader Sepp Blatter has called on Wednesday for "integrity" as he opened the football governing body's congress and geared up for a controversial bid for a fresh term as president.
Blatter said the organisation must move forward in a changing world in which football had become a "multi-billion dollar" industry with "powerful opportunities".
"Our world is changing, our game is changing. Our organisation must also change. It is our duty to keep football going forward," Blatter told hundreds of delegates gathered in Sao Paulo a day before the World Cup gets under way.
"It is our duty to lead by example and behave like an example, with integrity."
The build-up to the congress has been marred by allegations that millions of dollars in bribes were paid to help Qatar secure the 2022 World Cup.
Blatter set out his "vision" for FIFA in a 22-minute speech but did not confirm his long-mooted intention to stand for a fourth term. He is due to address congress again later on Wednesday.
"My vision for FIFA in this changing world is this: we must become one of today's pioneers of hope... we must carry the flame of honesty and responsibility and also respect," he said.
The veteran Swiss also hailed FIFA's large growth and said delegates must be "pioneers of hope".
"The job of managing international football and steering it on the right path is becoming more complex but also more challenging," added Blatter.
"There is much to be proud of, but we must now push on and take football into a new era."
He added: "There is more commercial interest and more media interest... with success and the higher profile we have now we more pressure and more responsibility."
The 78-year-old has become a controversial figure after a series of scandals surrounding the body which oversees a multi-billion dollar industry.
Britain's Sunday Times has published a series of reports alleging that millions of dollars in bribes were paid to help Qatar secure hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.
FIFA's chief investigator Michael Garcia is due to submit a report into the conduct of the bidding process.
On Tuesday, European delegates urged Blatter -- who said the claims about Qatar were motivated by racism -- to live up to his earlier promises to stand down when his current term expires next year.
"Mr. Blatter, this is nothing personal but... I do not think you are the man for the job any longer," said Dutch football president Michael van Praag.
Blatter defended FIFA's record in stewarding "the people's game", saying it handed out half-a-million dollars every day in development grants "from Somalia to the Solomon Islands".
In a nod to protests which have dogged the World Cup build-up, he said FIFA supports "the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech".
And he said FIFA must get tough on racism, raising the prospect of expelling teams from competition rather than suspensions or forcing them to play in empty stadiums.
"Our world is changing, our game is changing. Our organisation must also change," he said in his opening address.
"It is our duty to keep football going forward... it is our duty to lead by example and behave like an example, with integrity."