European leaders call on Blatter to stand down as Fifa president
Events in Sao Paulo appear to set stage for Uefa president Michel Platini to enter the race
Locals while away the hours on Rio’s Ipanema Beach before the start of the greatest sports show on earth tomorrow. Photograph: Getty Images
It may still look like being more of a one-horse race than the tournament that gets under way here tomorrow, but Sepp Blatter’s bid for re-election got a little more interesting yesterday in Sao Paulo, where representatives of a couple of Europe’s most prominent associations made clear on the first day of Fifa’s Congress that they believe it is time for the veteran Swiss to go.
The Europeans, who included England’s FA chairman Greg Dyke and its Uefa Executive Committee (ExCo) member David Gill, and Dutch federation chief Michael van Praag (also a member of Uefa’s ExCo), all roundly criticised the Fifa president.
While Lennart Johansson, the former Uefa president who was beaten by Blatter in an election for Fifa’s top job back in 1998, said having promised three years ago that he would not run again, his old rival should now accept that “16 years are enough”.
The row follows on from Blatter’s comments on Monday when, without naming anyone, he suggested the current coverage in the British media of the vote to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup contained much “discrimination and racism”.
He said those behind it wanted to destroy Fifa.
The African federation, some of whose most prominent members have been implicated in the reporting of the Qatar vote, raised the stakes somewhat by passing a motion in which they described some of the allegations as “deliberately hateful, defamatory and degrading”.
Gill was slightly more reserved, describing Blatter’s determination to run for yet another term of office as “disappointing”. Dyke insisted Blatter’s comments had been “totally unacceptble”. He reported afterwards that he had told Blatter, at a meeting from which the media was excluded: “The allegations being made are nothing to do with the racism, they are allegations about corruption.”
Most damning, it seems, was van Praag, who told journalists afterwards that he had presented Blatter with a stark assessment of his performance in office.
Von Praag said he had told Blatter in the meeting: “If you look at Fifa’s reputation over the last seven or eight years, it is being linked to all kinds of corruption and all kinds of old-boys’-networks things.
“Fifa has an executive president, and you are not making things easy for yourself, and I do not think you are the man for the job any longer,” he continued.
Von Praag said he told Blatter: “I like you very much . . . this is nothing personal. But you are now saying that Qatar was the wrong choice [for the 2022 World Cup], but you are not blaming yourself, you are blaming your executive committee.
“Yesterday you said something about racism against Qatar, and people are not taking you seriously any more. This is not good for Fifa and it is not good for the game.