Scandal fails to sway vote as Blatter beats prince to win fifth term as FIFA boss
Sepp Blatter won a fifth term as president of FIFA, world soccer's ruling body, two days after US criminal charges targeted his inner circle.
The 79-year-old's opponent, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, withdrew before a second-round ballot. In the first round, Blatter drew 133 votes - seven fewer than he needed to win - to the Jordanian's 73. He now gets four more years to head the not-for-profit body, which collected almost $5bn (€4.55bn) from running last year's World Cup in Brazil.
"I take the responsibility to bring back FIFA," Blatter said. "I am a faithful man. I was out of the room in meditation. I was saying God, Allah, they will help bring back FIFA to where it should be. At the end of this term I will give this FIFA to my successor in a very, very strong position. Let's go FIFA!"
The arrests at a posh Zurich hotel were the biggest controversy to touch 111-year-old FIFA under Blatter during what has been a scandal-tainted tenure. Swiss authorities are carrying out their own investigation into alleged corruption, racketeering and other misdeeds in the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. Blatter, who wasn't charged, got backing from Asian and African leaders to keep the job.
"Mr Blatter knew and was aware of the acts of corruption, influence and racketeering or, if he did not know - as he says - it's because he has no skills to lead FIFA," Real Madrid and Barcelona star Luis Figo, one of two candidates who quit the race to back Prince Ali, said in an e-mail. "Facing these facts, Mr Blatter, the principal responsible by FIFA has reached this point, being reelected, that shows exactly how the organization is sick."
Michel Platini, the president of European soccer authority UEFA, was among regional officials seeking fresh leadership of FIFA by backing 39-year-old Prince Ali. The Frenchman yesterday asked Blatter to resign but he refused, Platini said. UK Prime Minister David Cameron also called for Blatter to step down, and sponsors including Coca Cola said FIFA should resolve the scandal.
Nine FIFA officials were among 14 charged by US prosecutors, who vowed more arrests in a widening probe of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
In FIFA voting, each member country has one vote, regardless of size. More than $1bn of the group's almost $5bn in revenue from last year's World Cup was shared with members via so-called "solidarity" programs. That largesse has bought Blatter the backing of many smaller nations that rarely make a mark on the soccer field.