Football: Blatter ready for new term as Fifa boss

FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo on June 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo on June 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SAO PAULO (AFP) - Sepp Blatter is ready to seek a new term as Fifa's president, he announced on Wednesday, ignoring calls from top European officials to stand down as controversy engulfs football's governing body.

"I'm ready to accompany you in the future," the 78-year-old Blatter told the Fifa congress in Sao Paulo on the eve of the start of the World Cup.

The Fifa leader was helped by a congress vote not to consider age-limits on top officials.

Isolated boos could be heard among the applause as Mr Blatter said that conditions were good for him to seek a fifth term next year. But he has a strong chance of victory in the election to be held at the Fifa congress in Zurich in May next year.

"My mandate will finish next year... but my mission is not finished," he said in his closing address. "Together we will build the new Fifa, together we have the foundations to do things." Mr Blatter added: "Congress, you will decide who will take this proud institution forward. It's your decision to do so. But I will tell you, I'm ready to accompany you in the future, for the game for the world.

"Because it's your decision congress, if you want to go with me," he said, exiting to clapping and Brazilian music.

Mr Blatter has dropped heavy hints in past months that he will be a candidate again even though he said when he won in 2011 that it would be his last term.

His announcement is likely to vex European delegates who this week called for him to stand down next year.

Mr Blatter has long been a controversial figure and Fifa, which oversees a multi-billion dollar industry, has never been far from scandal.

Just prior to the World Cup, Britain's Sunday Times has published a series of reports alleging that millions of dollars in bribes were paid to help Qatar secure the 2022 edition.

Mr Blatter succeeded scandal-plagued Brazilian Joao Havelange in 1998. Under his stewardship, football's revenues have mushroomed with huge amounts from television rights and sponsorship.

But it has also attracted controversy, the latest of which is the media reports that a former head of Qatari football paid more than five million dollars in bribges to win support for the Gulf state's 2022 World Cup bid.

Qatar has denied any wrongdoing and Mr Blatter has said the corruption allegations are racist. But the scandal has still tainted the buildup to the start of the Brazil World Cup on Thursday.

The colourful Mr Blatter lived up to his eccentric image when he danced on stage at the congress and even suggested an inter-planetary version of the World Cup.

Mr Blatter was given a standing ovation by African and Asian confederations when he went to their meetings in Sao Paulo this week.

The Swiss enjoys strong support among the African and Asian blocs, who owing to their size constitute a powerful voting force within Fifa.

But he had a poor reception when he went to the European conferderation, Uefa, where some delegates called for him not to stand down.

Lord David Triesman, a former head of England's Football Association, said on Wednesday that Fifa was like a "mafia family" with Blatter its "Don Corleone".

Just before his announcement, the congress voted down proposals to consider limits on age and the number of terms for Fifa officials.

And Mr Blatter also announced disbursements of US$750,000 to member associations, on top of US$7 million to each of the world body's six regional confederations.