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Amid scandal, Blatter reelected as FIFA chief

Longtime 79-year-old football chief wins leadership contest again, amid unfolding corruption scandal

Paul Crompton

Published: Updated:

Longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter has won the leadership contest for football's global governing body on Friday, amid an unfolding corruption scandal that had represented a serious threat to his rule.

Delegates from the world soccer body's 209 members voted the 79-year-old Blatter to serve his fifth, four-year term in office, beating his only challenger, 39-year-old Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

In his victory speech, delivered after muted applause, Blatter thanked the delegates for their votes and said although “I’m not perfect, nobody’s perfect,” and that he would “bring [FIFA] back,” but warned the governing body: “don’t touch the World Cup.”

“I take the responsibility to bring back FIFA,” Blatter told the Zurich conference, adding that he would eventually hand the governing body over to his successor in a “in a very very strong position.”

The ‘faithful man’

Jubiliant in continuing his 17-year-reign, Blatter called on the divine to help get the body back on its feet.

“I am a faithful man, God, Allah, whoever, they will help us to bring back this FIFA,” he said.

Blatter won despite calls for his resignation from UEFA president Michel Platini and others. Platini said Thursday that UEFA could pull out of FIFA and withdraw from the World Cup if Blatter was re-elected.

FIFA's big-money sponsors have also called for change within the body. Visa warned the day before that it could withdraw from its contract, estimated to be worth around $25 million a year through 2022.

Blatter was re-elected unopposed in 2011 after promising to fight corruption and support key investigations of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests and a bribery scandal which knocked his Qatari opponent out of bidding for the top job.

The vote process on Friday in the Swiss city of Zurich ran into the second round, as Blatter only managed to secure 133 votes in the intial poll - short of a two thirds majority.

The voting comes two days after U.S. officials charged 14 people, including nine FIFA officials, with participating in a vast, decades-long bribery scheme tied to the awarding of soccer tournaments. Swiss officials have also announced a criminal investigation into how FIFA gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

‘Teflon Blatter’

But how did the hardy, scandal-wracked football administrator – who has been referred to by media outlets as “Teflon Blatter” so much that makers of the non-stick substance have complained – get reelected once again?

“It’s fairly clear that a number of federations from the Southern Hemisphere care more about keeping the spigots open in getting FIFA through Blatter than they do about transparency and accountability,” former FIFA advisor Michael Hershman told Al Arabiya News. “That’s how he managed to pull it off.”

“I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that he managed to have the World Cup in South Africa, it’s just all about distribution of money,” added Hershman, who once served on the world governing body’s independent governance committee.