SHOWS: ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (MAY 26, 2015) (REUTERS – ACCESS ALL) 1. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFA PRESIDENT, SEPP BLATTER, SAYING: “Listen, Luis Figo – he is free to say what he wants to say because
Blatter responds to Figo criticism
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (MAY 26, 2015) (REUTERS – ACCESS ALL)
1. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIFA PRESIDENT, SEPP BLATTER, SAYING:
“Listen, Luis Figo – he is free to say what he wants to say because he is a free man, he is a footballer, and if he says that (criticism of Blatter), then you ask him why.”
JOURNALIST ASKING: “How does it make you feel, to be called a dictator?”
“Listen, listen, I have received so many titles and I am still the President until Friday, let’s say six o’clock in the afternoon.”
2. BLATTER WALKING AWAY
STORY: FIFA president Sepp Blatter shrugged off criticism from former presidential hopeful Luis Figo on Tuesday (May 26) ahead of the 65th FIFA Congress this weekend.
The meeting in Zurich, that begins on Friday (May 25), will see FIFA members elect a new president. Blatter is the clear favourite to claim a fifth presidential term, but faces opposition from Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein.
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein is now the only rival to Blatter following the withdrawal of several candidates, including the former Portugal, Barcelona and Real Madrid winger Luis Figo.
Figo, who pulled out of the race on Thursday (May 21), has criticised the election process which he says “should shame anyone who desires soccer to be free, clean and democratic.”
He also called Blatter a dictator, yet the Swiss refused to be riled by Figo’s comments.
“Luis Figo – he is free to say what he wants to say because he is a free man, he is a footballer, and if he says that, then you ask him why,” said Blatter as he arrived at a CONCACAF meeting in Zurich.
“I have received so many titles and I am still the president until Friday, let’s say six o’clock in the afternoon,” he added.
The election is seen by many as a watershed moment for the scandal-hit federation.
Under Blatter’s watch, FIFA’s credibility has taken a battering. There has been a wave of scandals and controversy, ranging from allegations of corruption in the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process to a row over $25,000 watches gifted to executive committee members at last year’s the World Cup in Brazil.
Since 2010, eight members of FIFA’s executive committee have been banned for various lengths of time for corruption, or have resigned while under investigation.
Blatter has overseen some reforms but many critics say they do not go far enough and that, even though he has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing, it would be difficult to convince people that FIFA has changed while he is still in power.
Financially stable and with a hugely successful 2014 World Cup behind it, FIFA appears on the surface to be in good shape and, with Blatter enjoying huge support in Asia, African and Latin America, able to withstand despite all the scandals.
But it, and the sport it governs, cannot afford to continue losing credibility.