Blatter insists he never resigned

Latest statement suggests embattled Fifa president may seek to stay on

ZURICH - Sepp Blatter has fuelled suspicions of a renewed bid to hold on to the Fifa presidency, saying that his fate lies in the hands of those who re-elected him four weeks ago.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his apparent resignation on June 2, he told Swiss newspaper Blick: "I have not resigned, but put my mandate available at an extraordinary congress."

A Fifa spokesman confirmed via e-mail that Blatter had been correctly quoted but made no further comment.

The 79-year-old Swiss was thought to have ended his 17-year reign earlier this month amid allegations of corruption in world football's governing body.

In his 555-word statement then, he never once used the word "resign" or "quit" but implied that he would stand down as president. He said that he was "laying down" his mandate and spoke of electing "my successor at the earliest opportunity".

He also added that he "shall not be a candidate".

Any U-turn, however, would not be his first. In 2011, Blatter promised that his fourth term at the helm would be his last before changing his mind.

Blatter, who was re-elected in May, is under pressure to leave sooner rather than later as US and Swiss authorities investigate suspected bribery and corruption at the organisation.

Blatter has not been charged with any wrongdoing but is likely to be questioned by investigators.

US prosecutors have charged nine football officials and five sports marketing executives over claims they had paid or received bribes totalling US$150 million (S$201 million) over 25 years.

Jack Warner, accused by Chuck Blazer, the former Fifa executive-turned-undercover FBI informant, of taking bribes with him to vote for Morocco to stage the 1998 World Cup and South Africa to host the 2010 Finals, suggested that his impending "avalanche" of evidence triggered Blatter's apparent resignation.

Uefa president Michel Platini could now enter the scramble to succeed Blatter.

Former football greats Zico and Diego Maradona have indicated that they are ready to challenge Blatter, while Liberia Football Association chairman, Musa Bility, is the other candidate.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, a Blatter loyalist, and Prince Ali Al-Hussein, who failed to oust the Swiss last month, are among those yet to confirm if they will stand. An extraordinary meeting of the Fifa executive committee is expected to propose another vote on Dec 16.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'BLATTER INSISTS HE NEVER RESIGNED'. Print Edition | Subscribe