Anyone hoping that FIFA President Sepp Blatter would take on a more conciliatory tone after his re-election in the midst of a corruption scandal that has shaken global soccer to its core was in for a rude awakening Saturday. As he started his fifth term on Saturday, Blatter directly hit out at the United States, essentially implying that the Justice Department timed its arrests in Zurich and the announcement of a major corruption probe to hurt his chances of re-election. “No one is going to tell me that it was a simple coincidence, this American attack two days before the elections of FIFA,” Blatter told Swiss television, according to the Guardian. “It doesn’t smell good.”
Blatter also criticized U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her comments that there was “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption in soccer. “Of course I am shocked,” Blatter said. “I would never as FIFA president make comments about another organisation without being certain of what has happened.” In a news conference, Blatter did not hesitate when asked whether he feared that he could be arrested as part of the ongoing investigation. “Arrested for what? Next question,” he said.
The FIFA boss made it clear he was in no mood to mend fences and won’t easily forget the way in which the Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA, campaigned against him and ensured he won re-election without the support of most of the major soccer powers. “They have to be an example also, not only to say, ‘FIFA, what is FIFA?’ ” Blatter said of UEFA, according to the Wall Street Journal. “They have to take responsibility.” And UEFA also did not stay quiet. David Gill, a former chief executive of Manchester United, refused to attend a meeting of FIFA’s executive committee, which is a much bigger deal than it sounds, saying he couldn’t be part of the organization.
Blatter’s comments came shortly after IRS official Richard Weber, who had said FIFA was guilty of a “World Cup of fraud,” told the New York Times more indictments are likely. “I’m fairly confident that we will have another round of indictments,” he said.