Blatter delighted as allies win seats in UEFA elections
Sepp Blatter is more confident than ever of being re-elected FIFA president next month after his supporters scored a number of significant victories in elections held at the UEFA Congress on Thursday.
Michel Platini, his special advisor for the last four years, was elected to both the UEFA and FIFA executive committees, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, a long-term political ally from Germany also regained his seat on the FIFA executive after a four-year gap and Angel Maria Vilar Llona of Spain was elected as a FIFA vice-president.
At the same time, Per Ravn Omdal, a long-term critic and close ally of Blatter's main political adversary UEFA president Lennart Johansson, was voted off the FIFA executive in a real upset, while Antonio Mataresse, another close Johansson ally, stood down as a FIFA vice-president without seeking re-election.
Vilar Llona moved up to take his place, with Platini and Mayer-Vorfelder filling the two seats vacated by Vilar Llona and Omdal.
The result means that when the new FIFA executive committee reconvenes later this year, Blatter, if he is re-elected president, is likely to have a majority of his supporters. For the last four years his influence has largely been restricted by a committee in which his opponents had a slender majority.
"I am delighted with today's events, and I believe I have a better chance of winning the election now that I seem to have the understanding of the European delegates," said Blatter on Thursday.
"I do not see this as a personal victory, but a victory for football and a confirmation of the work I have been doing for FIFA.
"Three of the associations who won today -- Spain, France and Germany, are big countries who have publicly supported me and it proves that you cannot manufacture a result at a Congress -- the Congress is diplomatic and it decides on the basis of votes from the association."
Blatter, 66, is standing against Issa Hayatou, the 55-year-old president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) who has Johansson's backing, at the election at the FIFA Congress in Seoul on May 29.
Johansson wrote to the 51 presidents of UEFA last week urging them not to vote for Blatter in the FIFA election, but the sign from Thursday's Congress were that while delegates were happy to acclaim Johansson as president for the fourth time, they were not prepared to go so far as to vote for Hayatou as FIFA chief.
"I am not a gambling man, and I am not saying I have won the vote," Blatter continued, "but if I do then perhaps there are things that I could do better in a second term as president.
"I have been at FIFA for 26 years and in all that time of course I have made mistakes, but you try and learn from your mistakes. Only a fool keeps on repeating the same mistakes."
He also hinted that he had started some kind of conciliatory moves towards Johansson, despite some highly-charged personal attacks in recent weeks.
"We spoke to each other today, I think there is a chance we can still move forward together," he said.
Asked why his four-year spell as president appeared to be marked by so much controversy that never appeared to end, Blatter replied: "I must be a very popular figure because the media never stop writing about me, and I did not know I enjoyed such an international audience. But ask yourself why. The newspapers are full of files and nothing is ever forgotten."
Blatter also attempted to clarify his relationship with FIFA General Secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen, who recently criticised the president.
"The FIFA president is the head of 204 member associations," he said, "but at the same time I am the chairman of the board of directors and the chief executive of FIFA. The General Secretary is responsible for the day-to-day running of the administration. It is up to me to take the decisions and work with the executive committee."
FIFA General Secretary Zen-Ruffinen said on Wednesday that he made his recent public attack on Blatter regarding problems at the ruling body, only after the president ignored four letters he had sent him over the last year -- and after he had also been ignored by two members of the executive committee.
Blatter did not deny receiving the letters from Zen-Ruffinen.
"I prefer it that we have a dialogue with one another, but the time has come to keep the internal problems inside FIFA," he said.
He also denied he had promised support for any African country to stage the 2010 World Cup -- "the file is not even opened yet" -- and said that allegations that $100 million went missing from an ISL account before FIFA's long-term marketing partner collapsed last year "was the subject of two court cases" in Switzerland.