Thu, Jun 12, 2014 - Page 20 News List

WORLD CUP: Blatter battles graft accusations, UEFA calls for resignation

AFP, SAO PAULO, Brazil

Embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter was expected to defy opposition from European soccer bosses and declare his candidacy for a new term at the soccer governing body’s congress yesterday.

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 today.

Blatter has been criticized for saying that corruption allegations against Qatar — led by the British media — was racism. Several top European soccer officials have called on Blatter to stand down when his term ends next year.

However, Blatter, who acceded to the top job in 1998, is likely to get the standing acclamation from all the confederations bar the European confederation, UEFA, when he announces his candidacy.

Dutch soccer association head Michael van Praag challenged Blatter when he appeared before a closed UEFA meeting 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.

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. However, allegations made in British newspaper the Sunday Times are expected to be raised at the FIFA congress.

FIFA investigator Michael Garcia, a former US federal prosecutor, has completed his report into the allegations, but it will not be handed to a FIFA adjudicatory chamber until the middle of next month. 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.

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