ZURICH (Reuters) - Embattled FIFA President Sepp Blatter has told a Swiss newspaper that continental confederations, rather than soccer’s world governing body, were to blame for the corruption scandal engulfing the game.
In a wide-ranging interview with the right-wing weekly Weltwoche, published on Thursday, Blatter maintained his view that FIFA had done nothing wrong and could not be held responsible for the actions of individuals from continental federations.
“There is no wangling under the direct influence of FIFA,” Blatter said.
“But our influence over contracts concluded by the confederations is practically zero.”
Asked whether he bore any responsibility as the head of FIFA, Blatter replied that crime was a part of all walks of life.
“It is impossible to stamp out robbery and murder, even with a functioning courts system down to community level,” Blatter said. “Soccer is not better than our society.”
FIFA was thrown into turmoil after 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including several from Zurich-based FIFA, were indicted by the United States in late May on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Seven of those accused were arrested by Swiss police in a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel two days before the FIFA Congress, where Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term as president.
They are in custody awaiting extradition to the U.S.
U.S. prosecutors have not accused Blatter of any wrongdoing, but his stewardship of FIFA is under scrutiny, sources familiar with investigations in the U.S. and Switzerland have said.
In a shock announcement four days after the May arrests in Zurich, Blatter said he would lay down his mandate at an extraordinary FIFA Congress which will take place between December and February, but he would not be candidate.
The Swiss reiterated to Weltwoche that he would not stand, saying it was “in principle not” possible that he would remain as head of FIFA.
Blatter he said he would leave FIFA even if the extraordinary congress asked him to stay, adding that he thought the criticism against him was rooted in envy.
“This envy has been festering for years. Envy is a predicate to jealousy. And jealousy is rooted in love. This can however turn to hate. And that’s what happened when this tsunami hit us two days before the congress,” he said.
Quizzed about why didn’t do more to prevent any wrongdoing within his organization, Blatter gave a sarcastic explanation, and likened the ongoing crisis to a soccer tournament he was confident of winning.
“I not only see everything, I’m responsible for everything, even for the English women’s own goal at the World Cup recently,” Blatter said.
“Am I responsible for climate change too?”
He added: “We lost the first match, but we have a chance at the semi-final. I am calm and optimistic.”
Reporting by Katharina Bart; Additional reporting by Brian Homewood in Bern.; Editing by Julian Linden