Sepp Blatter is ready to seek a new term as Fifa’s president, he announced on Wednesday, ignoring calls from top European officials to stand down as controversy engulfs football’s governing body.
“I’m ready to accompany you in the future,” the 78-year-old Blatter told the Fifa congress in Sao Paulo on the eve of the start of the World Cup.
The Fifa leader was helped by a congress vote not to consider age- and term-limits for officials. He later denied having any designs on a life-time presidency.
Isolated boos could be heard among the applause as Blatter said that conditions were good for him to seek a fifth term next year. But he has a strong chance of victory in the election to be held at the congress in Zurich in May next year.
“My mandate will finish next year... but my mission is not finished,” he said in his closing address. “Together we will build the new Fifa, together we have the foundations to do things.
“Congress, you will decide who will take this proud institution forward. It’s your decision to do so. But I will tell you, I’m ready to accompany you in the future, for the game, for the world.
“Because it’s your decision congress, if you want to go with me,” he said, exiting to clapping and Brazilian music.
Blatter has dropped heavy hints in past months that he will be a candidate again, even though he said when he won in 2011 that it would be his last term.
Despite stopping short of formally announcing his candidacy, his comments are likely to vex European delegates who this week called for him to stand down next year.
Blatter has long been a controversial figure and Fifa, which oversees a multi-billion dollar industry, has never been far from scandal.
Just prior to the World Cup, Britain’s Sunday Times published a series of reports alleging that millions of dollars in bribes were paid to help Qatar secure the 2022 edition.
Blatter succeeded scandal-plagued Brazilian Joao Havelange in 1998. Under his stewardship, football’s revenues have mushroomed with huge amounts from television rights and sponsorship.
But it has also attracted scandal, the latest of which is the media reports that Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam paid more than US$5 million in bribes to win support for the Gulf state’s 2022 World Cup bid.
Qatar has denied any wrongdoing and Blatter has said the corruption allegations are racist. But the scandal has still tainted the build-up to the start of the World Cup.
The colourful Blatter lived up to his eccentric image when he danced on stage at the congress and even suggested an inter-planetary version of the World Cup.
Blatter was given a standing ovation by African and Asian confederations when he went to their meetings in Sao Paulo this week.
The Swiss enjoys strong support among the African and Asian blocs, which owing to their size constitute a powerful voting force within Fifa.
But he had a poor reception when he went to the European confederation, Uefa, where some delegates called for him to stand down.
“Something like this, lacking respect like I saw and heard in the Uefa meeting, I have not had in my entire life,” Blatter said after the congress.
Lord David Triesman, a former head of England’s Football Association, said Fifa was like a “mafia family” with Blatter its “Don Corleone”.
Blatter refused to comment on Triesman’s description. Just prior to his statement on the presidency, he announced millions of dollars in disbursements to member associations and regional confederations.