Asia-Pacific remains firmly behind embattled Blatter
By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - There were a few fissures but no major cracks apparent in FIFA president Sepp Blatter's bedrock of Asia-Pacific support as officials began returning to the region from the annual congress of soccer's world governing body over the weekend.
Asia's 47-nation bloc, and the less numerous but equally supportive Oceania Football Confederation, were significant backers of Blatter's campaign to be re-elected for a fifth term, despite the corruption scandal engulfing FIFA.
Blatter, 79, won Friday's vote even though the U.S. Department of Justice has charged nine soccer officials with corruption and Swiss authorities are conducting their own criminal investigation.
It looks unlikely that any football bodies in the region will back Britain's call for a Europe-led boycott of the World Cup if Blatter does not resign his post.
The Asian Football Confederation, whose Arabian Gulf-dominated leadership are among Blatter's staunchest allies, issued a note congratulating the Swiss and, with no mention of the scandal, promised to continue to back him.
The Anglophone countries of Australia and New Zealand had split with their respective regional bodies before the ballot by publicly backing Jordanian Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, who withdrew after being trounced in the first round of voting.
Australian soccer supremo Frank Lowy expressed disappointment at Blatter's re-election but distanced himself from a boycott, saying it was "over-expectation" to call on such a small nation to take the lead in the campaign for change.
Oceania's position on a World Cup boycott is somewhat academic given the infrequency with which their 11 full members appear at soccer's showpiece event. Continued...