Africa begs Blat­ter to stay

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

ZURICH — Sepp Blat­ter may seek to stay on as the pres­i­dent of FIFA, a Swiss news­pa­per re­ported on Sun­day, less than two weeks af­ter in­di­cat­ing he would step down over a ma­jor cor­rup­tion scan­dal at the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

How­ever, Domenico Scala, the of­fi­cial over­see­ing the process of choos­ing a new pres­i­dent, said that Blat­ter’s de­par­ture was an “in­dis­pens­able” part of planned re­forms to foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body.

Blat­ter is un­der pres­sure to step down for good as US and Swiss au­thor­i­ties widened their in­ves­ti­ga­tions into bribery and cor­rup­tion at the sport’s global gov­ern­ing body. EU law­mak­ers are among those call­ing for his im­me­di­ate de­par­ture.

But ac­cord­ing to the Sch­weiz am Son­ntag news­pa­per, Blat­ter had re­ceived mes­sages of sup­port from African and Asian foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tions, ask­ing him to re­think his de­ci­sion to step down.

Blat­ter was hon­oured by the sup­port and had not ruled out re­main­ing in of­fice, the news­pa­per said, cit­ing an anony­mous source close to him.

Blat­ter said on June 2 he would step down as FIFA pres­i­dent in the wake of the cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion, hav­ing led foot­ball’s world gov­ern­ing body since 1998,, although he would stay on un­til a suc­ces­sor was elected.

FIFA, in an emailed state­ment, re­ferred Reuters to the speech Blat­ter made on June 2 and said they had “no fur­ther com­ment to make”.

In his speech, Blat­ter said: “I have de­cided to lay down my man­date at an ex­tra­or­di­nary elec­tive Congress. I will con­tinue to ex­er­cise my func­tions as FIFA Pres­i­dent un­til that elec­tion.”

He also added: “Since I shall not be a can­di­date, and am there­fore now free from the con­straints that elec­tions in­evitably im­pose, I shall be able to fo­cus on driv­ing far-reach­ing, fun­da­men­tal re­forms that tran­scend our previous ef­forts.”

But Scala, head of FIFA’S au­dit and com­pli­ance com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment that Blat­ter needed to stick by his pledge that he would not stand again.

“For me, the re­forms are the cen­tral topic,” he said, with­out re­fer­ring to the in­ter­view di­rectly.

“That is why I think it is clearly in­dis­pens­able to fol­low through with the ini­ti­ated process of pres­i­dent’s change as has been an­nounced. “

Blat­ter has changed his mind in the past. When he be­gan his fourth man­date in 2011, he said it would be his last, but he later backed down, stood again and was re-elected in May.

FIFA is ex­pected to pick his re­place­ment at an ex­tra­or­di­nary congress in Zurich be­tween De­cem­ber and Fe­bru­ary.. The ex­act date will be de­cided by an ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing on July 20.

Blat­ter’s re­newed in­ter­est in the job was also a rea­son for the de­par­ture of Wal­ter de Gre­go­rio as FIFA’S di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, since he had ar­gued for a com­pletely new start and ad­vised Blat­ter to go, the Swiss news­pa­per said.

De Gre­go­rio de­clined to com­ment to the news­pa­per.

Mean­while, Morocco’s foot­ball fed­er­a­tion de­nied on Sun­day al­le­ga­tions that the coun­try had paid a bribe to a FIFA ex­ec­u­tive dur­ing its un­suc­cess­ful bid to host the 1998 World Cup.

US au­thor­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing cor­rup­tion at FIFA, foot­ball’s global gov­ern­ing body, while Swiss pros­e­cu­tors have an­nounced their own crim­i­nal in­quiry into the 2018 and 2022 bids awarded, re­spec­tively, to Rus­sia and Qatar.

France hosted the 1998 tour­na­ment, but US court doc­u­ments con­tain pros­e­cu­tors’ alle- gations that bid­ding na­tion Morocco had paid a bribe to a FIFA ex­ec­u­tive, Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago.

Warner has de­nied this and other charges against him and has said he fears for his life, though he has also said he will tell in­ves­ti­ga­tors all he knows about cor­rup­tion at FIFA.

“Morocco denies cat­e­gor­i­cally these slan­der­ous ac­cu­sa­tions against the of­fi­cials of the coun­try’s or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee of the 1998 World Cup,” said a state­ment from Morocco’s foot­ball fed­er­a­tion, known by its French ini­tials FRMF, ac­cord­ing to state news agency MAP.

“Re­gard­ing its ef­forts ... Morocco de­served bet­ter treat­ment in­stead of ten­den­tious and un­founded ru­mours,” it said.

Ear­lier this month, FIFA post­poned the bid­ding for the right to host the 2026 World Cup and Swiss au­thor­i­ties took pos­ses­sion of com­puter data from the global foot­ball body that a source said in­cluded records from the of­fice of its pres­i­dent.

The FBI are in­ves­ti­gat­ing bribery and cor­rup­tion at FIFA, in­clud­ing scru­tiny of how foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body awarded World Cup host­ing rights to Rus­sia and Qatar.

— Reuters

Sepp Blat­ter.

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