Sepp Blatter hits back at ‘hate’ campaign
Zurich: FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Saturday he was “shocked” at the way the US judiciary has targeted football’s world body and slammed what he called a “hate” campaign by Europe’s football leaders.
Blatter said he suspected the arrest of seven FIFA officials this week under a US anti-corruption warrant was an attempt to “interfere with the congress” at which he was elected to a fifth term as FIFA president Friday.
The battle with his opponents went into a new round on Saturday as the FIFA executive committee met to discuss how many places each continent gets at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
While US officials have said more indictments in their investigation are likely, Blatter said he believes there is a deliberate campaign against FIFA including the arrests just two days before the vote.
“There are signs which cannot be mistaken: the Americans were candidates for the 2022 World Cup and they lost,” he told Swiss television channel RTS.
“I am not certain, but it doesn’t smell good.”
He also said the United States was the “number one sponsor” of Jordan, home country of his challenger for the FIFA presidency, Prince Ali bin al Hussein.
The Jordanian, who had the backing of European football body UEFA, withdrew from Friday’s race after the first round of voting. The arrested officials were all detained for corruption cases in North and South America and Blatter said they could have been arrested on their home territory.
He also condemned comments about FIFA made by senior members of the US judiciary, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who lamented the “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption in football. Another official spoke of a “World Cup of fraud.”
“Of course I am shocked,” Blatter responded. “I would never as FIFA president make comments about another organisation without being certain of what has happened.”
US authorities have so far indicted 14 people, including the seven held in Zurich, on charges of involvement in $150 million of bribes for sports media contracts. They include two FIFA vice presidents.
Richard Weber, head of the Internal Revenue Service criminal investigations unit, said he was “fairly confident” more indictments would follow.
“We strongly believe there are other people and entities involved in criminal acts,” Weber told The New York Times.