FIFA's Blatter comes out fighting despite scandal and divisions

Sat May 30, 2015 5:39pm EDT
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By Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA President Sepp Blatter came out fighting on Saturday as he began his fifth term in charge of soccer's governing body, implying that the United States timed the announcement of a major corruption probe to try to scupper his re-election bid.

The 79-year-old Swiss comfortably won Friday's vote at a FIFA congress in Zurich, having secured the support of blocks of votes from Asia and Africa, which outweighed dissenters including Europe's powerful soccer body UEFA.

He now faces the daunting task of restoring public faith in an organization tainted by allegations of rampant graft and deeply divided over his leadership. Swiss police arrested seven leading soccer officials, including FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, in a dawn swoop on a Zurich hotel on Wednesday.

One of Blatter's strongest critics, English Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke, predicted further scandals before the end of his new four-year term.

"I think he (Blatter) will be then forced to resign," he told reporters.

But Blatter, who has run FIFA for nearly 20 years during which it has regularly been subject to suspicions of sleaze and corruption, went on the offensive, criticizing U.S. authorities for how they had handled their investigation.

"No one is going to take it off me that it was a simple coincidence (that) this American attack (happened) two days before the elections of FIFA," Blatter told the Swiss RTS television channel late on Friday.

"Why didn't they (the police) do this in March when we had the same meeting? At that time, we had less journalists."   Continued...

Re-elected FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures during news conference after an extraordinary Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, May 30, 2015.   REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann