Blatter defends against critics

25 October 2013 10:46

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has defended himself and his organisation against critics, claiming the world governing body's unsung work is often overshadowed by "the thoughtless swipe of the pen".

Corruption scandals over recent years have caused untold damage to FIFA's reputation, with several members of Blatter's executive committee departing under clouds while an investigation is currently ongoing into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The 77-year-old used a speech at the Oxford Union to speak up for his organisation, though, insisting he was no "ruthless parasite" and that FIFA had become a "scapegoat".

"Perhaps you think you know who I am, what FIFA is, what we do," Blatter said in his prepared speech, which was released by the world governing body on Friday.

"Perhaps you think I am a ruthless parasite sucking the lifeblood out of the world and out of football! The Godfather of the FIFA gravy train! An out-of-touch, heartless schmoozer!

"There are not many names that the media haven't thrown at me in the last few years.

"You would have to have a heart of stone for it not to hurt.

"You ask yourself, what have I done? Why has it come to this?

"Is FIFA to blame for everything? Are we not just a football organisation working for the good of the game? How did it come to this?

"People like a scapegoat, of course, but how could things have become so twisted?

"As you can see, I am not some overbearing bully who can intimidate my critics with one look and strong arm governments to my will.

"But sometimes it feels like all that unsung, good work FIFA is working to achieve through investing in football and communities around the world has been washed away in the thoughtless swipe of the pen."

Blatter, who had planned to step down in 2015 but hinted in May that he could stand for a fifth term as president, also addressed an apparent misconception that FIFA was not an admirer of the United Kingdom.

"One falsehood I must address is this idea that we at FIFA have something against the United Kingdom and its people," the Swiss veteran said.

"My love for the United Kingdom and its culture and heritage is rock solid. It runs throughout my life."

He continued: "FIFA and I are great admirers and friends of this nation, its people. and its football.

"This is the birthplace of association football. And what a history of great players, great teams. Manchester United, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, Celtic, Rangers.

"And you share your love of these teams with fans all over the world.

"British football is truly global. Bringing people together and breaking down barriers. But there is more.

"We applaud the strong stand you have taken against the scourge of racism in football and in society.

"We celebrate with you the success of the Premier League in raising the profile of football across the world and driving the game forward.

"And we work hand in hand with the International Football Association Board - England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - to decide the laws of the game in football.

"To be an active part of that footballing heritage and that history is one of the greatest honours of my life."

Source: PA