Blatter: UEFA lacks courage to challenge his leadership
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has accused UEFA of lacking the "courage" to provide a challenge to his leadership, and called on the European governing body to be "respectful" of his wish to continue in the role.
Blatter will be bidding for a fifth term in office at the election in May, with so far only three candidates – French former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne, Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan and former Tottenham winger David Ginola – having declared their intention to stand against him.
Speaking in an interview with CNN World Sport, the 78-year-old said: "I have been asked by the national associations to be our candidate again because nobody that is strong was in. So I go there.
"All those who want to get rid of me should come. All this opposition is coming now, it’s unfortunate to say – but it’s true – it’s coming from Nyon, from UEFA. They don’t have the courage to come in. So let me go (on) – be respectful."
He continued: "Football is a team sport. Let’s go together with the team. I invite the confederation of UEFA and especially the leaders of UEFA that are so bitterly attacking me: Join! Join! Football is a unity."
The world governing body has been engulfed by controversy since awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
American lawyer Michael Garcia produced a 430-page report into the bidding for the tournaments but quit as FIFA’s ethics investigator after losing his appeal against the findings which cleared Russia and Qatar to host the World Cups.
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke and England’s UEFA vice-president David Gill were last June at the forefront of a European rebellion against Blatter – saying he should not commit a U-turn on his 2011 pledge to stand down in 2015 – despite the incumbent president appearing to have huge support in other continental confederations.
Blatter insists he has unfinished business and will not step aside without a fight.
"I have not finished my mission because it’s a mission to be in football," said the Swiss, who launched FIFA’s governance reform process in June 2011 at the 61st FIFA Congress in Zurich, shortly after being re-elected for a fourth mandate.
"We have started in 2011 with the reform process. The reform process is not over."
Asked if he was nervous about the upcoming election, he replied: "No, no. Definitely not. It is impossible to make everybody happy. If I would have only positive press, then it would not be good. And I like criticism as long as the criticism is… I would say fair criticism."
Despite stating his firm intention to continue in his current role, Blatter also outlined plans for his life after FIFA.
"The day I’m going to retire, the first thing I’m going to do is radio," he said. "I always said I will do radio. Because radio is even more popular than television, than all electronics. I said one day – this was my boy’s wish – to be a radio reporter."