Embattled FIFA boss wins support despite calls to step down

Tue Jun 10, 2014 12:21pm EDT
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By Mike Collett and Mark Gleeson

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The head of world soccer, Sepp Blatter, faced calls on Tuesday to hand over the reins of an organization mired in allegations of corruption, but he also secured the backing of regional FIFA delegates gathered in Brazil ahead of the World Cup.

Michael van Praag, president of the Dutch Football Association (KNVB), conveyed one of the bluntest messages yet to the 78-year-old FIFA president, who is widely expected to run for a record fifth term in office in an election next year.

"The image of FIFA has been tarnished by everything that has happened over the last years," Van Praag said in an interview in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant from Sao Paulo, where he is attending this week's FIFA Congress.

"There are very few people who still take FIFA seriously and whatever way you want to cut and dice it, Blatter is responsible in the end," he added.

Preparations for the World Cup, which kicks off in Sao Paulo on Thursday, have been overshadowed by allegations of corruption surrounding Qatar's bid to stage the 2022 World Cup.

The Sunday Times newspaper said that the former president of the Asian Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, had used money from secret slush funds to help win votes and support for Qatar's successful World Cup bid.

Qatar denies the allegations and says it was not connected to Bin Hammam, while Bin Hammam has yet to comment publicly.

Labour disputes and protests sparked by public anger over how much the tournament has cost Brazil and how the country still struggled to be ready have also marred the run-up to the world's biggest, and most lucrative, sporting event.   Continued...

FIFA President Sepp Blatter (L) gestures next Brazil's Sport minister Aldo Rebelo during a media conference in Sao Paulo June 5, 2014.   REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker