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Sepp Blatter: 'envious' England behind attacks on Fifa

10 July

Sepp Blatter has launched an "incredible" attack on English football, claiming criticism of him is rooted in envy that dates back back 40 years.

His comments came in an interview with Swiss magazine Weltwoche that left the Daily Telegraph spluttering over his "astonishing" claims.

In the interview 79-year-old Blatter, who has refused to accept any blame for Fifa's problems, sarcastically suggested he was responsible for Laura Bassett's own goal, which knocked England out of the women's World Cup, and global warming.

The Fifa president, who last month indicated he step down after a series of corruption scandals to engulf world football's governing body, is refusing to go quietly, and has even hinted that he might not leave his post at all.

Seven Fifa officials were arrested before the annual congress in Zurich in May as part of a US-led investigation into corruption within world football's governing body. Swiss authorities are also carrying out a probe into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments. Blatter, though, is angry about the criticism that has come his way, blaming it on "envy".

"This envy has been festering for years," he explained. "Envy is a predicate to jealousy. And jealousy is rooted in love. This can however turn to hate. And that's what happened when this tsunami hit us two days before the congress."

Blatter then traced the origins of this "envy" back to the fiercely contested presidential election of 1974, when Brazilian Joao Havelange defeated England's Sir Stanley Rous. "At that point, England lost their supremacy over their beloved sport, and also over athletics," said Blatter. "The English suffer by no longer being able to control football. This is where the attacks against Fifa originated."

During the interview, Blatter was also asked why he had failed to do more to prevent wrongdoing within his organisation.

His response was to take another sarcastic swipe at the English. "I not only see everything, I'm responsible for everything, even for the English women's own goal at the World Cup recently. Am I responsible for climate change, too?"

Blatter also said he was not accountable for the actions of others within Fifa.

He added: "It is impossible to stamp out robbery and murder, even with a functioning courts system down to community level. Football is not better than our society."

The Daily Mail also picks up on his comments and reports that Fifa's ethics committee have banned Chuck Blazer, the former executive committee member who turned FBI informer to expose the corruption scandal.

The American, who at one stage bugged Fifa officials to provide evidence of corruption for the FBI, has been banned from football for life for his "many acts of misconduct".

Sepp Blatter has 'not resigned' as president of Fifa   

26 June

Sepp Blatter has fuelled speculation that he could yet attempt to stay on as president of Fifa, by insisting that he had not "resigned" from his post and was not ready for retirement.

Fittingly, he chose the occasion of the opening of a Fifa museum to suggest that his sorry reign might not be over and insist that his regime was not ready to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

"I'm not ready for the museum nor for a waxwork yet," he said at the event in Zurich, according to The Guardian.

Blatter appeared to stand down earlier this month in the wake of a slew of corruption allegations against the organisation. The FBI indicted 14 people on corruption charges after the arrest of seven senior officials during Fifa's annual congress. There were also police raids on Fifa's headquarters in Zurich as the Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation into the voting process for the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar.

That did not stop Blatter winning a fifth term as president, but as the pressure mounted he appeared to stand down just four days after the ballot, declaring that he was to "lay down" his mandate and call an emergency congress.

However, the Guardian reports that he told Swiss newspaper Blick: "I have not resigned. I am making my mandate available at an extraordinary congress."

It adds to the feeling of "scepticism [for] those hoping for reform", adds the paper. It raises the prospect of Blatter calling for Fifa members to vote on whether he should leave office, an unlikely outcome considering the support he has globally.

"It remains to be seen whether Mr Blatter's ambiguous statement is merely an attempt to sugarcoat the prospect of being forced out of office by the scandal or whether, as many suspect, he retains hopes of staying on when that extraordinary congress takes place later this year," reports The Times.

The paper adds that since the scandal erupted and Blatter appeared to stand down, one of his loyal lieutenants, Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, "has emerged as a highly significant figure" behind the scenes.

"If he were to leave the decision to Fifa's 209 members, who re-elected him on May 29, the likelihood remains that he would retain enough support to stay on," adds the paper.

Earlier this month Fifa refused to deny previous claims that Blatter hoped to stay on as president.

Fifa corruption scandal: no Nobel Peace Prize for Blatter

16 June

Sepp Blatter has moved to quell speculation that he is determined to cling on to power at Fifa, insisting that claims he will reverse his decision to stand down as leader of the scandal-hit organisation are wide of the mark.

Fifa issued a statement on Blatter's behalf on Monday which distanced him from former aide Klaus Stoehlker, who had made the surprising claim. It referred back to Blatter's comments on 2 June when he announced he was laying down his mandate. In calling new elections he said: "I shall not be a candidate."

Not only has Blatter confirmed his decision to surrender control of Fifa, he is also facing up to an even bigger disappointment, says the Daily Telegraph. It reports that the Nobel Peace Centre in Norway has confirmed it is to end its co-operation with Fifa "as soon as circumstances allow" in the wake of the corruption allegations against the organisation.

"The announcement was a bitter blow to the 79-year-old, who long harboured delusions of winning a Nobel Peace Prize and was the primary cheerleader for the so-called Handshake for Peace," reports the paper.

Blatter believed "that his work to spread football around the globe made it a realistic goal", reports The Guardian. "His delusional quest was said by some close to the 79-year-old to be one of the reasons he could not bring himself to stand down as president."

The initiative, involving handshakes between team captains and officials before matches, was intended to promote a message of peace. But Fifa appeared to be on the warpath after learning of the NPC's decision.

In a statement Fifa said it was "reluctant to accept" the NPC's decision. "This action... obstructs the promotion of the key values of peace-building and anti-discrimination," it said.

Fifa corruption scandal: will Blatter stand for re-election?

15 June

Could Sepp Blatter be planning to stage a Lazarus-like comeback at Fifa, days after announcing that he would step down from the presidency amid the corruption scandal that engulfed football's governing body?

Two reports on Sunday suggested that he was "plotting an audacious bid to renege on his promise to quit", says the Daily Telegraph.

The first appeared in the Swiss Sunday newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag. It said Blatter had been so moved by messages of support from football associations in Africa and Asia since he announced his departure that he could be persuaded to stand again in the upcoming election.

The paper "cited an anonymous source close to the 79-year-old who said he had not ruled out remaining in office", reports the Telegraph.

Meanwhile, BBC sports editor Dan Roan claimed he had been told that Blatter "could make an audacious bid to stay on if no suitable alternative candidate emerges".

Blatter has changed his mind about standing down in the past, having previously promised to stand aside after his fourth term as president, notes the BBC.

"Blatter will hold meetings over the coming days when he will gauge whether he still retains enough support to seek an astonishing sixth term as president," says Roan. "Many feared he would use his remaining months in charge to try to ensure the election of a favoured successor. Now it appears he may choose to sensationally stand himself."

The move would be met with "fierce opposition" in the wake of the FBI investigation, says Roan, but it is a worrying development, says Oliver Kay in The Times.

"Perhaps the most troubling aspect of all of this is that, to much of the football world, there is nothing wrong with a regime that is stained, indelibly, by corruption," he says.

Kay likens Blatter to the Black Knight in Monty Pyhton's Holy Grail, who refuses to yield despite having both arms and a leg chopped off and, declaring himself invincible, fights on.

"That Blatter considered himself invincible was apparent for a long time," says Kay. "The litany of corruption allegations? The FBI investigation? Just another flesh wound."

Fifa aide ordered to quit over joke as Interpol severs ties

12 June

Fifa's head of communications Walter de Gregorio was forced to resign after telling a joke about the corruption scandal at football's governing body during an appearance on Swiss TV.

In a statement announcing his departure, Fifa said De Gregorio had "relinquished his office", but the BBC insists that "he was asked to leave by president Sepp Blatter" after making fun of Fifa's recent travails.

During an appearance on Swiss chat show Schawinski on Monday De Gregorio was asked to tell a joke and he obliged. "The Fifa president, secretary general and communications director are all travelling in a car. Who's driving?" he asked. 

After a brief pause for comic effect, he added: "The police." 

Claims that Blatter ordered him to stand down as a result of the gag have have plunged Fifa into farce, according to The Times, which notes that De Gregorio was ridiculed after the arrest of seven Fifa officials last month when he appeared in front of the world's media and said it was a "good" development for Fifa.

Fifa were dealt a more serious blow on Friday, when Interpol announced it was suspending its relationship with Fifa because of the corruption claims. Fifa and Interpol had previously been working together on probes into match-fixing.

According to The Guardian the international police liaison group said it will "freeze the use of financial contributions from Fifa" which it uses to fight match-fixing.

Fifa hands over more evidence as Zico enters presidential race

11 June

Normally it's the time of year when football heads to the beach to spend a couple of months on the sun lounger, but this summer promises to be a soap opera thanks to the ongoing investigation into  Fifa.

On the same day that Fifa announced it was suspending bidding for the 2026 tournament because of the recent events the Swiss authorities stepped up their investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host selection process, reports The Times

"I can confirm that Fifa handed over seized IT data," said a spokesman for the Swiss attorney-general (OAG). "As already communicated, the OAG has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown."

According to the Times "unconfirmed reports" claimed the data given to the OAG included files from the offices of Sepp Blatter, the outgoing Fifa president, Jerome Valcke, the secretary general, and Markus Kattner, the chief of finance.

The paper added that Fifa tried to put a positive spin on the seizure by claiming it was "a handover" that had been organised with the attorney general's office. Some immediately questioned the value of such a seizure two weeks after the initial arrest of Fifa officials. For an organization not known for its transparency, a fortnight is a long time in which to erase incriminating files.  David Larkin, a sports law and anticorruption expert, branded OAG's move "ridiculous" on account of the time lag.

Meanwhile, as the hunt for a replacement to Sepp Blatter continues, Brazilian football legend Zico has declared his intention to stand for the presidency of Fifa.

The 62-year-old, whose full name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, remains one of the greatest players to have worn the iconic yellow jersey, appearing for Brazil in the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

Having coached subsequently in Japan, Russia and Turkey, few people have a greater knowledge of world football and Zico announced his candidature at the football skills centre he runs in Rio de Janerio. "It's sad for our sport to see what is happening in football today," said Zico. "The corruption... and the hard work of many other good people wasted."

Zico said he believed "there's a possibility now for change" and added: "I see it as my duty to use my experience and knowledge to try and stand for the presidency... I feel capable of this."

Fifa puts 2026 World Cup on hold after corruption probe

10 June

Scandal-hit Fifa has postponed the bidding process for the right to host the 2026 World Cup in the wake of an investigation into claims of corruption in the vote for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke, himself caught up in allegations of bribery relating to the 2010 tournament in South Africa, said it would be "a nonsense" to begin the process in the current climate.

The host of the 2026 tournament was due to be decided at the annual Fifa congress due to be held in Kuala Lumpur in May 2017. The US, which has brought corruption charges against nine past and present Fifa officials, was expected to be one of the favourites, along with Mexico and Canada.

The move has heightened speculation that Russia and Qatar, scheduled to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments respectively, could be in trouble.

"News of the delayed bidding process for 2026 comes just days after Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of Fifa's audit and compliance committee, suggested that Russia and Qatar could be stripped of their World Cups if evidence of bribery and corruption emerges," reports The Times.

Meanwhile, Fifa is expected to announce a replacement for president Sepp Blatter in December, sooner than many expected. An extraordinary meeting has been called in Zurich on 16 December.

Blatter resigned last week four days after being re-elected as Fifa president despite the arrest of seven officials during Fifa's annual conference and news that the Swiss authorities had begun a criminal investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes. The final straw appeared to be a letter proving that Valcke was aware of a payment of $10m to disgraced Fifa official Jack Warner from the South African authorities.

Valcke once again defended himself over the payment. "I don't understand what's the problem and why I am such a target in this question," he said during a press conference in the Russian city of Samara.

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