SAO PAULO (AP) — While there’s hardly any doubt, FIFA President Sepp Blatter won’t declare himself a candidate for re-election just yet.
He did reveal on Wednesday, though, how deeply hurt he was by hearing that European countries no longer want him in the role.
Blatter passed up a chance to formally announce his re-election plans for a fifth term bid in 2015 when he addressed his 209 member nations at their annual congress ahead of the World Cup.
What he did show at a later news conference was raw emotions about UEFA officials making a face-to-face demand in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that he step aside next year.
“That was the most disrespectful thing I have experienced in my entire life,” Blatter said in German, “on the football pitch and in my home.”
FIFA’s media chief cut short his boss’s response as Blatter seemed ready to unload further on the only football continent that refuses to publicly support the 78-year-old Swiss official’s expected candidacy in the election next May.
Blatter’s outburst was more surprising after an all-day congress meeting seemed to go entirely to his plan.
Members tossed out proposals on age and term limits for Blatter and others; FIFA cheered the hall by promising $200 million in bonus payment from World Cup profits; and Blatter unveiled a new idea, a review system for team managers to challenge referees’ decisions.
The challenge was Blatter’s closing remarks after a long day that he was expected to end with a call to support his candidacy.
He did hint at his intentions to run again for the job he’s held since 1998.
“I am ready to accompany you in the future,” Blatter told delegates, “but it’s your decision, congress, if you want to go with me.”
“The candidate period is not yet open so no one can be a candidate,” Blatter told reporters. “My mission is not yet finished so ask me next year.”
The hostile UEFA meeting on Tuesday — the final stop on Blatter’s six-visit tour of his continental confederations ahead of the congress — was a rare down note for him.
Senior UEFA officials had urged Blatter to take responsibility for FIFA corruption allegations and negative headlines for football under his leadership. They also objected to Blatter suggesting that racism was a factor in English media reporting that Qatar corruptly won the 2022 World Cup hosting rights.
UEFA board member Michael van Praag of the Netherlands said he told Blatter he liked him as a friend but that “people tend not to take you seriously anymore.”
On a day when Blatter said from the stage that the game could spread to other planets — “Then we’ll have an Interplanetary Cup” — he was being taken very seriously indeed by loyal delegates from outside Europe.
Blatter’s campaign message that age limits were a form of discrimination led to delegates also voting out term limits on principle. A key reform recommended by FIFA’s anti-corruption advisors therefore fell.
There is little will outside Europe for change partly because the booming World Cup continues to reap dividends.
FIFA’s finance director announced bonuses of $750,000 for each member country and $7 million for each confederation. The same for tiny 11-nation Oceania as wealthy 54-member UEFA.
Blatter only hinted at divisions with UEFA, led by his former sports politics protege Michel Platini, the former France great whose mentor refuses to leave the stage.
“It’s impossible to make everybody happy,” Blatter said in an opening speech. “So express yourself and say, ‘Well, what do you think could be better?’ We are here to answer all the questions.”
At his later news conference, Blatter was evasive with several replies to English media.
When one questioner displeased him, the multilingual president chose to respond in French while declining to address the detail.
By this time, his preferred audience of football family members had long left the venue.
“I personally am in a very positive mood,” Blatter had told his voters in his closing address, one hour before the opposite was true.
The next time FIFA members see him in this setting, on May 29, 2015 in Zurich, they will probably be deciding whether to keep him in office until 2019. His opponent that day could well be Van Praag.
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