Fifa President Sepp Blatter faces his toughest audience this week in his campaign to be re-elected. Blatter arrives Monday for the annual congress of Uefa, whose leaders are supporting all three of his election opponents: Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, Luis Figo and Michael van Praag.
The 79-year-old Blatter was stung when he last went on Uefa turf, in Sao Paulo last June. Then, Blatter described the verbal dressing down he got as “the most disrespectful thing I have experienced in my entire life.”
On Sunday president Blatter has said in a Swiss newspaper interview that “football’s world governing body Fifa has more influence than any religion.”
“Fifa is more influential than any country in the world and every religion due to the positive emotions it releases,” Blatter told Sonntags-Zeitung. “We move masses. We want to use this to create more peace, justice and health in the world.”
UEFA has its own election business Tuesday. The 54 member federations will re-elect their own president, Michel Platini, unopposed. Still, the Fifa contest has more potential for drama – despite Blatter’s current strategy of evasion. He refuses to debate in public or detail his plans for a fifth presidential term he is expected to win on May 29.
“I am not campaigning,” Blatter said at Fifa last Friday. “I am now 40 years in Fifa, and I am 17 years as president of Fifa. This is my manifesto.” Blatter has declined Uefa offers to take part in an election event Tuesday with his three rivals, who should make campaign speeches after the formal congress closes.
Uefa used that pre-World Cup meeting in Brazil to let senior officials tell the Fifa president he had lost credibility at the top of an organisation often linked to corruption. Van Praag led that attack, which showed Blatter was not forgiven for promising the 2011 Uefa Congress in Paris he would step down in 2015.
Blatter later said he had the right to change his mind and has broad support among Fifa’s 209 voting federations to extend his 17-year reign. Protocol demands Blatter will address the Uefa meeting early on Tuesday’s agenda. Senior Uefa officials gathering in Vienna said Blatter should be treated with respect rather than repeat the hostile audience of Sao Paulo.
Also Tuesday, Uefa should step up its pressure on Blatter by sending two noted critics as delegates to the Fifa executive committee. German federation president Wolfgang Niersbach is unopposed for a four-year mandate on the executive committee, and former Manchester United CEO David Gill is favored to win an election for the Fifa vice presidency reserved for the British nations. Gill faces Wales federation leader Trefor Lloyd Hughes.
Fifa vice president Angel Maria Villar of Spain is unopposed to retain his seat despite being under investigation by the Fifa ethics committee. He faces sanctions for his conduct in the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests, and subsequent probe by Fifa prosecutor Michael Garcia, who later resigned.
Uefa federations will also elect seven members of their own 16-strong executive committee. Twelve candidates are standing. – Sapa-AP