Friday, May 29, 2015

Sepp Blatter Wins FIFA Presidential Election: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

VIA: Sepp Blatter captured his fifth term as FIFA president on Friday, winning the much-anticipated election over Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan despite the current backdrop of corruption charges surrounding the international football organisation.

The first round of voting ended 133-73 in favor of Blatter, but that wasn't enough to secure the required two-thirds majority, per Joshua Robinson of the Wall Street Journal. However, Prince Ali elected to withdraw from the process before the second round could get underway, according to SportsCenter.

"I thank you, you have accepted me for the next four years. I will be in command of this boat of FIFA. We will bring it back of shore," Blatter said as part of his acceptance speech, according to Rob Harris of the Associated Press.

"You can see I'm in a good mood, it's normal. I was a little bit nervous today. I like you, you brought me again into FIFA," Blatter said, per Harris.

"I am a faithful man, God, Allah or whatever it is, the spirit, will help us bring back FIFA to where it should be," Blatter continued, according to AS English.

He ended his acceptance speech with a concession to his critics and a look toward the future.

"I'm not perfect, but we will do a good job together. I thank you for trust and confidence. Together we go. Let's go FIFA!" Blatter said, per Huffington Post Sports.

U.S Soccer president Sunil Gulati released a statement on the vote, per SportsCenter:

The 79-year-old Blatter was first elected in 1998, when he replaced Joao Havelange in the governing body's most prestigious seat. Friday's voting took place at FIFA's Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, where the organisation's 209 voting members confirmed the extension of the leader's 17-year tenure.

Blatter's victory comes at the end of a watershed week for FIFA, in which nine officials and five corporate executives were indicted on federal charges including "racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies," according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The bidding process and allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively, will also come under the microscope.

FIFA confirmed six of its members were arrested in an official statement, amid two separate investigations into potential bribery and illegal money-making schemes within the organisation. One investigation is U.S. based, the other is Swiss, as detailed by FIFA's release:

Firstly, the arrest of six individuals this morning in Zurich concerns investigations by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of the State of New York. The Swiss authorities, acting on behalf of their US counterparts, arrested the individuals for activities carried out in relation with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business.

The second instance follows FIFA’s initiative of presenting the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General in November 2014. The authorities are taking the opportunity of the FIFA Congress to interview those FIFA Executive Committee members who are not Swiss residents who voted back in 2010 and are still in office.

Blatter was the heavy favourite to win the presidential vote both prior to and after the corruption charges were brought against FIFA officials, so Friday's result provides little shock.

UEFA President Michel Platini called for Blatter to step down on Thursday, as reported by BBC Sport. This sentiment was backed by David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Russian President Vladimir Putin, though, made his support for Blatter known, per BBC News.

Prior to the voting on Friday, Prince Ali spoke to how he would act if elected as FIFA president, via Harris:

Today is about giving the new dawn a chance to break through the darkness. If you give me the honour of your vote I will take FULL responsibility. FIFA is not a company, it is a service organisation. The world expects us to stand up & fight for FIFA, our game and for each other. We cannot ignore the clamour outside our doors.

Harris also had Blatter's final words before the vote:

I am being held accountable for the current storm ... so be it. I will shoulder that responsibility. I will take it upon myself. I want to fix FIFA - together with you.

Despite a landmark week in the investigation of corruption within FIFA, one may question how significant change can be made with Blatter still in charge. A lack of transparency has shrouded his past governments, arguably creating the conditions which eventually led the American and Swiss authorities to take action.

Public trust in football's governing body ranks at an all-time low, so Blatter's immediate plans must be to simultaneously improve his and FIFA's reputation.

He now has four years to achieve this and define his legacy, as FIFA approaches arguably the most important era in its 111-year history.

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