Sports / Soccer

Undeterred by arrests, soccer boss Blatter plots another great escape

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-05-28 09:24

Undeterred by arrests, soccer boss Blatter plots another great escape

FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts during a news conference after being re-elected for a fourth term as president of world soccer's governing body during the 61st FIFA congress at the Hallenstadion in Zurich June 1, 2011.[Photo/Agencies] 

ZURICH - FIFA president Sepp Blatter is a master of getting out from tight corners and his federation's initial reaction to Wednesday's extraordinary events in Zurich suggested he has every intention of pulling off another great escape.

Soccer's governing body was thrown into disarray when several of its leading officials, including vice-president Jeffrey Webb, were arrested in a dawn raid at the luxury lakeside hotel which for years has pampered FIFA visitors.

They were detained pending extradition to the United States where they face federal corruption charges.

Swiss authorities also opened criminal proceedings against individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA soccer World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

Blatter, FIFA's president since 1998, was not among them.

It was a day FIFA's detractors had long waited for, after years of corruption allegations which critics say have not been properly dealt with.

The initial outside reaction was that, surely, FIFA's annual Congress could not go ahead as planned amid such turmoil, and even less so the presidential election where Blatter is runaway favourite to see off a challenge from Prince Ali bin Ali Hussein of Jordan.

Yet, within hours, FIFA's head of media Walter de Gregorio was turning the situation on its head.

The raid was a result of action that FIFA had itself taken, he told reporters. Far from being a disgrace, it was an essential, if undignified, part of a cleaning-up process Blatter began in 2011, at the start of his fourth mandate.

And, while Blatter was not in the happiest of moods, the 79-year-old was ready for Friday's election for a fifth term.

De Gregorio said the Swiss investigation stemmed from a complaint that FIFA itself had made to Switzerland's attorney-general's office in November following an investigation by its ethics committee into the bidding process for the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

"The timing may not be obviously the best but FIFA welcomes this process and FIFA co-operates fully with the attorney general of Switzerland and the Federal Office of Justice," he said.

"Of course Congress will take place. One thing has nothing to do with the other."

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