Blatter defies calls to quit as FIFA scandal widens

Thu May 28, 2015 7:33pm EDT
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By Mike Collett and Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - The corruption charges engulfing world soccer's governing body have heaped shame and humiliation on the game, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said on Thursday, although he flatly rejected calls to resign over the widening scandal.

With FIFA facing the worst crisis in its 111-year history, Michel Platini, who heads Europe's soccer confederation UEFA, said he had told Blatter to go "with tears in my eyes", but the 79-year-old had refused.

"I said, 'I'm asking you to leave, FIFA's image is terrible.' He said that he couldn't leave all of a sudden," Platini, a former French international, told reporters.

In a bullish speech opening a FIFA Congress in Zurich, Blatter said the turbulence of the last two days, which included the arrest of leading soccer officials at their luxury Swiss hotel, had brought "shame and humiliation" to world soccer.

Making his first public appearance since Wednesday's dramatic events, which were triggered by a U.S.-led investigation into allegations of rampant bribe-taking, Blatter said there was no room "for corruption of any kind".

"The events of (Wednesday) have cast a long shadow over football and this Congress," said Blatter, who is standing for a fifth mandate as FIFA president in Friday's election, in which Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan is his only challenger.

Ignoring calls to step down, Blatter said: "I know many people hold me ultimately responsible ... (but) I cannot monitor everyone all the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it."

Platini said 45 or 46 of UEFA's 53 member associations would vote for Prince Ali. But it appeared that Blatter still commanded enough of FIFA's 209 national associations to secure victory.   Continued...

FIFA President Sepp Blatter arrives for the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, May 28, 2015.   REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann