Blatter to declare candidacy
Sepp Blatter (AFP)
Sao Paulo - Embattled FIFA leader Sepp Blatter is expected to defy opposition from European football chiefs and declare his candidacy for a new term at football governing body's congress on Wednesday.
Controversy surrounding the 78-year-old Swiss official and accusations of corruption against Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid have tainted the buildup to the start of the Brazil World Cup in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
Blatter has been criticised for saying that corruption allegations against Qatar - led by the British media - was racism. Several top European football officials have called on Blatter to stand down when his term ends next year.
Blatter, who acceded to the top job in 1998, is likely to get the standing acclamation from all the confederations bar UEFA when he announces his candidacy however.
Michael van Praag, head of the Dutch football association, challenged Blatter when he appeared before a closed meeting of the European confederation, UEFA, on Tuesday.
"Mr Blatter, this is nothing personal but if you look at FIFA's reputation over the last seven or eight years, it is being linked to all kinds of corruption and all kinds of old boys' networks things," Van Praag said he had told Blatter.
"FIFA has an executive president and you are not making things easy for yourself and I do not think you are the man for the job any longer."
Blatter replied that he would not resign straight away, according to the official.
UEFA president Michel Platini has been touted as a possible rival to Blatter when the FIFA vote is held in May next year. Platini has said he will only decide his candidacy in September.
Van Praag said that if Platini does not stand then UEFA should agree another candidate to stand against the Swiss official.
Blatter was given a standing ovation when he spoke before the African, Asian and North American-Caribbean confederations on Monday. "This time, before UEFA, he did not get it," van Praag said.
Blatter's rule has never seen a controversy like the accusations that Qatar paid for votes when FIFA chose the Gulf country to host the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar has strongly denied involvement in wrongdoing. But allegations made in British newspaper The Sunday Times are expected to be raised at the FIFA congress.
Garcia, a former US federal prosecutor, has completed his report but it will not be handed to a FIFA adjudicatory chamber until mid-July. Blatter has said no decisions will be taken until September or October.
FIFA faces mounting pressure as five of its six major sponsors, who account for hundreds of millions of dollars of finance each year, have called for a thorough investigation of the allegations.
Blatter hit out at the "storm against FIFA" over Qatar and the "discrimination and racism" at the heart of the attacks when he addressed the African Football Confederation on Tuesday.
African football officials were among those said to have accepted Qatar's money, according to the Sunday Times. CAF members gave Blatter a rousing reception and slammed the allegations in a statement.
English FA chairperson Greg Dyke said he had told Blatter "the allegations being made are nothing to do with the racism, they are allegations about corruption."
Qatar beat the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea to the 2022 tournament, despite a FIFA technical report which warned the searing temperatures during June and July in Qatar posed a health risk.
Meanwhile Brazilian president Dilma Roussef - who herself is up for re-election later this year - declared that despite all the horror stories leading up to the finals everything was ready.
"Brazil overcame the main obstacles and is ready on and off the pitch for the cup," she said in a nationally televised address.
"The pessimists... have been defeated by the hard work and determination of the Brazilian people, who never give up," she added, saying the tournament would leave a lasting legacy of infrastructure."