FIFA leader Sepp Blatter, on Friday, defended his actions battling corruption ahead of a vote to decide on whether he remains as president of football’s beleaguered world body.
But Blatter expressed doubts about timing of the arrests of seven top football officials just two days ahead of the election he has been strong favourite to win.
“People say it was a coincidence. But I have a small question mark,” the Swiss official told the start of FIFA’s annual congress.
“I am held responsible for the storm. OK yes I accept this responsibility,” he said.
“I promise a strong FIFA, I want to climb back up the hill, arrange FIFA’s situation. I want a beautiful FIFA, strong out of the storm,” he said before the voting started.
“Today I appeal for a team spirit, unity, so we can advance together. It may not be easy but that is why we are here today.”
Blatter, who rejected a call to quit from UEFA president Michel Platini, repeated his case that he cannot “monitor” football affairs alone and cannot be blamed for the scandals.
“The guilty ones are individuals, not the whole organisation,” he insisted, calling for greater action by regional confederations and national associations “to put FIFA on the right track.”
Blatter, 79, is being challenged by Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a FIFA vice president.
The prince, strongly backed by Europe’s football powers, has campaigned on the need for change at the top of the scandal-tainted body. He promised to establish “transparency” if he wins.
The Jordanian prince said he would “restore respect for the body we represent”.
Before the vote started, Blatter shook hands with the prince as part of ceremonies for officials leaving the FIFA executive committee. The prince has been a FIFA vice president, but did not stand for a new term.
Palestine drops motion Blatter scored one victory when the Palestinian Football Association withdrew a motion to expel Israel from FIFA because of restrictions on Palestinian teams.
Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub withdrew his association’s bid to have FIFA suspend Israel from international football on Friday before shaking hands with his Israeli counterpart.
“I have decided to drop the resolution for the suspension,” Rajoub told the FIFA congress in Zurich before shaking the hand of Israeli FA president Ofer Eini.
“A lot of colleagues, whom I respect and whose commitment to the ethics and values of the game I appreciate, told me how painful it is to hear of the issue of suspension.
“But I want to protect the Palestinian footballers, to let them enjoy the privilege of the game as others do.”
But Rajoub demanded that FIFA help tackle racism and problems of movement facing Palestinian players in the occupied West Bank before waving a red card at delegates to emphasise his point.
“I think it’s time to raise the red card against racism and humiliation in Palestine and everywhere. It is time,” he fumed.
“Football must serve as a bridge to peace,” said Eini.
“I’m saying to my friend Rajoub, let the politicians deal with the political points.
“Let’s do the best for football on both sides. I want us to work together and to be able to cooperate.
“We should be able to solve problems by speaking to one another. “There will always be disputes, but if we speak together, we can solve the problems,” he said.