Blatter attacks Fifa critics as he runs for fifth term as president
Head of football's governing body says he is best man to safeguard Fifa after corruption claims
Not for the first time, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has launched a counter-attack against the "racist" British media, as calls for a re-vote on the decision to grant the 2022 World Cup to Qatar gather pace.
There has been an avalanche of corruption allegations about the bid in recent weeks, but the 78-year-old head of football's governing body went on the offensive on Monday in two speeches to Fifa delegates from African and Asian countries, three days before the World Cup gets underway in Brazil. He also appeared to confirm that he had changed his mind about retiring and would stand for a fifth term as president.
He told the African Football Confederation that there was "a great deal of discrimination and racism" among Fifa's critics, and then, in a speech to the Asian Football Confederation, he accused the British press of creating 'Qatargate'.
Rounding on those who accuse Fifa of corruption he said: "They want to destroy, not the game, but they want to destroy the institution, because our institution is strong, and is so strong we are sure they will not destroy it."
It was, says The Guardian, a "routine familiar to those who observed his presidential campaigns". Blatter is standing for a fifth term as Fifa president and tried to use the claims for his own political ends, telling delegates that "he was best placed to lead Fifa through the storm".
The Swiss looks likely to win the presidential election and his speech to African members, in which he promised to pay "bonuses", was met by "applause and a standing ovation". They later passed what the Daily Telegraph describes as a "remarkable resolution" which denounced the "deliberately hateful, defamatory and degrading attacks by some media, notably British, on the image and the integrity of the Confederation of African Football".
The Telegraph notes that many at Fifa regard allegations in the British media as "sour grapes" over England's failed 2018 World Cup bid.
However, football's governing body will find it harder to dismiss the concerns of its financial backers. "Blatter is coming under mounting pressure from sponsors for Fifa to act over Qatar," reports The Times. "The concerns of Hyundai, BP and Budweiser follow similar calls from Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa and Sony, four other prominent sponsors, for a full-scale investigation."
Fifa's own ethics investigation into the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar should conclude this week, but its findings will not be presented to the adjudicatory committee until after the World Cup is over.