Soccer

FIFA elects Sepp Blatter to a fifth term despite soccer scandal

AP

Amid crisis, scandal and calls to step down, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was re-elected on Friday for a fifth term.

The 79-year-old Swiss, who has led the international soccer governing body for 17 years, defeated his sole opponent, Jordanian Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, 133 votes to 73. He won the election with support from Asia, Africa and parts of Oceania and Central America.

He had strong opposition from the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Blatter begins this next term just days after the U.S. Justice Department uncovered a worldwide $150 million bribery and corruption scheme within the highest ranks of FIFA.

Fourteen senior officials were indicted, including seven who were arrested in a dawn raid of a posh hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, where FIFA leaders were meeting.

A separate Swiss investigation is examining possible improprieties in FIFA’s awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

“For the next four years I will be in command of this boat called FIFA, and we will bring it back ashore, we will bring it back to the beach,’’ Blatter said after Friday’s election. “I’m being held accountable for the storm.

“OK, I will shoulder that responsibility.’’

Prince Ali withdrew from the race during the second round of voting. In the first round, Blatter had fallen just short of the two-thirds super majority he needed to win.

“I want to thank in particular all of you who were brave enough to support me,” Ali told the delegates.

Portuguese legend Luis Figo, who considered running for FIFA president until recently, said of the results: “FIFA has lost, but above everything, football has lost and everyone who truly cares about it has lost, too.”

Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, had said he planned to vote for Prince Ali.

“While we are disappointed in the result of the election, we will continue to push for meaningful change within FIFA,” Gulati said in a statement. “Our goal is for governance of FIFA that is responsible, accountable, transparent and focused solely on the best interests of the game. This is what FIFA needs and deserves, and what the people who love our game around the world demand. We congratulate President Blatter and it is our hope he will make reform his number one priority to ensure the integrity of the sport across the world.’’

Michel Platini, president of the 53-member European federation UEFA, has been one of Blatter’s harshest critics this week, calling for him to resign and suggesting European federations might take a drastic measure, not ruling out boycotting competitions.

“I am proud that UEFA has defended and supported a movement for change in FIFA,’’ Platini said. “Change, which in my opinion, is crucial if this organization is to regain its credibility. I congratulate my friend Prince Ali for his admirable campaign, and I take the opportunity to thank all the national associations who supported him.”

Added Greg Dyke, chairman of the English Football Association: “This is not over by any means. To quote the U.S. Attorney General, this is the beginning of the process, not the end.

“The idea Blatter could reform FIFA is suspect. I’d be very surprised if Mr. Blatter was still in this job in two years’ time.’’

But Blatter continued to defend himself, reiterating that he cannot police the entire membership.

“The events of Wednesday have unleashed a storm. … It will take some time” to restore FIFA’s image, he told delegates.

“I am willing to accept [that] the president of FIFA is responsible for everything, but I would at least like to share that responsibility with everyone. We cannot constantly supervise everyone in football. … You cannot ask everyone to behave ethically.’’

Miami Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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