ZURICH — The Confederation of African Football (Caf) says it is backing Fifa president Sepp Blatter ahead of today’s election as Swiss authorities said yesterday there were no plans as yet to question the veteran leader in their investigation of money laundering and corruption allegations against football’s main international body.
And Blatter refused Michel Platini’s request to step down as Fifa president following the $150 million corruption scandal. The French chief of Uefa met Blatter one-on-one yesterday and asked him to quit, but he refused, saying it would not be possible before today’s presidential election.
The Uefa president confirmed that all his member nations in Europe have been asked to vote for Blatter’s opponent, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, after two separate criminal probes were launched into Fifa.
Platini has not ruled out the possibility of a World Cup boycott if Blatter is re-elected, saying “we will be open to all options”.
“For the time being, there are no plans to question the Fifa president,” Andre Marty, a spokesman for the office of Switzerland’s Attorney-General, told AFP in an email.
His comment came after Fifa was rocked Wednesday by early morning arrests of seven football officials at a luxury hotel in Zurich, where the organisation is based and where its annual congress kicked off yesterday.
The arrests came at the request of US authorities, who said nine football officials were among a total of 14 people facing up to 20 years in jail if found guilty in the long-running corruption case involving more than $150 million in bribes.
US documents indicate that South Africa paid bribes to Fifa officials to secure the 2010 World Cup.
Swiss police also searched Fifa’s headquarters as part of a separate investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
The beleaguered 79-year-old Fifa president remained closeted in his office as global headlines slammed the “World Cup of fraud”, with many calling for him to step down.
Blatter, who nonetheless remains favourite to win today’s election, vowed in a statement late on Wednesday that any officials found guilty of corruption would be expelled from the sport.
“Such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game,” he said.
Caf opposed the postponing of today’s Fifa presidential election.
“The Confederation of African Football opposes any postponement of the 65th Fifa congress and the presidency election scheduled on May 29 2015 in Zurich,” the Caf said in a statement issued on its website.
“During a meeting of the federation held on May 27 2015 in Zurich, Caf reiterated its support for Sepp Blatter’s candidacy,” it said.
On Wednesday night, Fifa provisionally banned 11 individuals over the cases.
The banned individuals are: Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Jack Warner, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin, Nicolás Leoz, Chuck Blazer and Daryll Warner.
The Asian Football Confederation also said it still supports Blatter’s bid for another term as Fifa president, and opposes any move to delay today’s scheduled elections in the wake of a string of corruption arrests of some of the federation’s top officials.
Blatter, making his first public appearance since Wednesday’s extraordinary events which critics said marked a new low for his federation, said there was no room “for corruption of any kind”.
“The events of yesterday (Wednesday) have cast a long shadow over football and this congress,” Blatter said in his opening speech to Fifa’s annual congress in Zurich yesterday.
“They bring shame and humiliation to football and demand change from us all. We cannot allow the reputation of Fifa to be dragged through the mud any longer.”
Ignoring calls to step down because of the corruption scandal, Blatter said: “I know many people hold me ultimately responsible . . ., (but) I cannot monitor everyone all the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.
“Football cannot be the exception to the rule, that is our responsibility at Fifa, and we will co-operate if anyone is involved in wrongdoing,” said Blatter.
“There can be no place for corruption of any kind. Let this be the turning point. More needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically.
“Football deserves so much more and we must respond. Tomorrow (today), at the Congress, we . . . will begin a long and difficult road. We have lost trust, at least part of it, and we must now earn it back, through the decisions we make.
“We like this game . . . not for greed, not for exploiting, not for power, but because of the love of the game. Solidarity and unity is asked for the game, for the world, for peace.” — Online