Zurich: In spite of widespread criticism and calls asking him to step down after the recent scandal that rocked the football world, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was re-elected for a fifth consecutive four-year term after his lone rival Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan withdrew after the first round of voting at the end of the Congress here on Friday.
The 79-year-old Blatter, who has been FIFA president since 1998, got 133 votes to Prince Ali’s 73 as three member associations’ votes were deemed invalid in the 209-member federation. Swiss Blatter needed a two-thirds majority in the first round of voting but fell short by seven votes.
The voting was about to enter the second round where Blatter needed only a simple majority i.e. 105 votes to get re-elected when the 39-year-old Jordanian chose to withdraw, handing the incumbent president another victory.
The elections took place following a big scandal where seven top FIFA officials were arrested here on Wednesday as part of a US prosecution that indicted nine football officials and five corporate executives. Blatter faced calls of resignation from various political and sports quarters across the world.
The vote came two days after FIFA vice-presidents Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo and Caymanian Jeffrey Webb, who is also president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), as well as the former president of the South American football confederation (CONMEBOL), Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz were held in the US fraud inquiry.
Current and former FIFA executives indicted also included Rafael Esquivel, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, and Jose Maria Marin. They were accused of bribery, racketeering and money-laundering involving more than $100 million since 1991.
Swiss prosecutors have also launched a separate investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar, respectively.
Following his win, Blatter promised to restore the reputation of the football governing body.
Thanking the member association heads, he said: “I like you, you brought me again into FIFA. I like my job and I would like to be with you. I am not perfect but we will do a good job together.
“I take responsibility to bring back FIFA, with you we will do it, I am convinced. I am a faithful man, now God, Allah or whoever we believe in, they will help us to bring FIFA back to the shore. I promise you at the end of my term I will give FIFA to my successor in a very strong position. The age is no problem. Some people are 50 and look old.”
Blatter also had a word of praise for his challenger Prince Ali.
“All those that have voted for Prince Ali, I congratulate you; he is a good candidate. I would like to give compliments and express gratitude to Prince Ali. Because he was a challenger and he has obtained a very good result. He could have said ‘no, let’s go further and perhaps I would have received more votes’,” added the Swiss.
Upon conceding the loss, Prince Ali said: “It has been a wonderful journey. I want to thank all those brave enough to support me, but I will be withdrawing from the race. I wish you all the best of luck for the future.”