Blatter confident of re-election

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he came away from the CONCACAF

congress Tuesday confident he’ll be re-elected despite a bid to

unseat him by Mohammed Bin Hammam of Qatar, the Asian Football

Confederation president.

”I’m sure at the end of the day there will be no change in

FIFA,” Blatter said.

CONCACAF president Jack Warner said the federation is happy with

Blatter’s leadership but receptive to Bin Hammam’s ideas. Bin

Hammam didn’t attend the congress because he was unable to attain a

U.S. visa, Warner said.

A meeting between Bin Hammam and CONCACAF officials was

rescheduled for May 10 in Trinidad. CONCACAF is football’s regional

governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, and

is considered pivotal in the outcome of the presidential election

June 1.

The congress was closed to the media, an unusual step for such

sessions. Afterward, Blatter and Warner sat side by side at a news

conference.

”I am, I would say, a relaxed president after the meeting,”

Blatter said. ”I am more than confident now after this congress

here that we are going forward with energy and a lot of

optimism.”

Blatter has led football’s governing body since 1998, and the

75-year-old Swiss is seeking a four-year term that he said will be

his last. Bin Hammam is his lone opponent.

Warner advised Blatter before the congress began that

campaigning by the president was unnecessary.

”President Blatter has been coming here for the last 20

years,” Warner said. ”If there’s anybody we know, we know

president Blatter. Therefore, there is nothing he can tell us that

we don’t know of him, or what his plans are.”

FIFA has often been accused of corruption on Blatter’s watch,

but his support in the CONCACAF region is strong, Warner said.

”The members of the executive committee and congress, all of

them, have said they’re happy where they are,” Warner said.

”Nobody expressed any displeasure with Mr. Blatter’s office. But

out of fair play, they would like to hear what the other person has

to say.”

Warner’s 35-member group will vote as a bloc. At the FIFA

Congress in Zurich, the winning candidate will need a two-thirds

majority on the first ballot or a simple majority on the

second.

FIFA drew criticism for its methods in choosing the two most

recently selected World Cup sites – Russia in 2018 and Qatar in

2022. The decisions came at the same time, with two executive

committee members barred from voting because of corruption

allegations. Four other senior officials were suspended.

If re-elected, Blatter promises broad reforms in the way sites

are chosen, and says he’ll set up a watchdog committee to supervise

how FIFA works and restore the organization’s credibility.

Bin Hammam, 61, played a key role in Qatar winning the rights to

the 2022 World Cup. He has proposed sharing FIFA’s power and jobs

with its six confederations by offering 17 extra seats on the

executive body and creating legal and development teams at

continental headquarters.

Some CONCACAF delegates don’t know Bin Hammam well, and his

absence at the congress cost him a chance to court support.

”How much it has hurt him, I really can’t say,” Warner said.

”If he were here, it would have helped him a lot.”

CONCACAF delegate Frederick Lunn of the Bahamas said the group

is open-minded about Bin Hammam’s candidacy.

”You have to give everyone an opportunity in this process,”

Lunn said. ”Regardless of the outcome, to have any sort of

opposition and to hear new ideas is good. You never know. He may

come with a home run. It happens sometimes with the underdog.”