The end for FIFA president Sepp Blatter term came suddenly, just days after he had seemingly solidified his hold on FIFA. The 79-year-old leader of the world’s most popular sport, defied global animosity last week, to win four more years in office. But his re-election only increased the pressure from colleagues, sponsors, athletes and fans for Blatter to step down as FIFA’s president. At a hastily arranged news conference, Blatter announced he would leave office within months and called for a fresh election to appoint a successor. “I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football,” said Blatter, who could still be a target of U.S. investigators delving into decades of corruption and bribery accusations against FIFA officials.
After generations under Blatter and his mentor, Joao Havelange, the announcement left FIFA without a leader and without a clear course forward. It sets off a global power struggle for control of the organization, as a criminal investigation intensifies simultaneously. A strained and serious Blatter gave a six-minute long statement in French before exiting, without taking questions. Blatter had been defiant and feisty in the same room, fending off questions about FIFA’s battered reputation and the chance that he could be arrested.
His mood had changed in the 24 hours before his announcement, Blatter’s aide Walter Gagg told The Associated Press. A federal indictment last week, detailed apparent bribes from a FIFA account totaling $10 million, laid a clearer trail of complicity to the door of FIFA headquarters, if not Blatter himself.
So why did Blatter change his mind and resign, just four days after he was elected to a fifth term in a 133-73 vote over Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan? Blatter’s explanation was the he did not “have a mandate from the entire world of football — the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football.” Blatter defiantly brushed aside any criticism when he was re-elected, amid the gravest crisis in FIFA’s history. After the arrest of former, current and future members of his executive committee, Blatter criticized U.S. authorities and the British media for pursing an anti-FIFA agenda.
Meanwhile, Former Brazil star-turned-senator Romario, has saluted Sepp Blatter’s resignation as FIFA president as “the best news” he’d heard for a long time. “The best news for ages! Joseph Blatter stepping down as FIFA president represents the beginning of a new era for world football,” Romario said in a post on social media.
The 49-year-old former striker — a World Cup winner in 1994 — has been a bitter critic of world football’s governing body and also the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), blasting them as corrupt and in need of root and branch reform.
The former striker had lambasted leading figures in the world game as “corrupt” and “thieves” after an FBI probe brought seven arrests, including two FIFA vice presidents, in Switzerland. One of those detained was Jose Maria Marin, who until April was CBF president. Romario said after the arrests that he hoped Blatter would also be detained.