Blatter urged not to run for FIFA presidency

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SAO PAULO (AP) - In a stinging rebuke for Sepp Blatter, European football leaders told the veteran FIFA president on Tuesday that he should leave the scandal-hit governing body next year.

Blatter has sought support in Sao Paulo for a re-election bid in 2015 and faced a hostile UEFA membership, which bucked the trend of overwhelming backing from FIFA’s other five continents.

They had urged the 78-year-old Swiss this week to run for a fifth presidential term next year despite a slew of scandals and negative headlines under his leadership.

UEFA executive committee member Michael van Praag and English Football Association President Greg Dyke directly challenged Blatter not to stand again during a closed-door meeting of Europe’s 54 football nations - described by one delegate as “a grilling.”

“People link FIFA to corruption and bribery and all kinds of old boys’ networks,” Van Praag told reporters later.

“FIFA has an executive president and that means you are responsible,” the Netherlands federation president said he told Blatter. “People tend not to take you very seriously anymore.”

The volatile meeting recalled open conflict between Blatter and European football that flared around his original election in 1998, and again for his re-election in 2002 during a financial scandal after FIFA’s then-World Cup marketing agency collapsed into bankruptcy and sparked a kickbacks investigation.

UEFA, with 53 of the 209 FIFA members, has a second chance Wednesday to oppose Blatter. That will come in the public arena of the FIFA Congress floor, when he says he will seek acclaim for his expected re-election run.

Van Praag insisted his was not a personal attack on Blatter and deflected questions on whether he could be proposed by UEFA as a rival candidate.

UEFA members reminded Blatter he promised them in March 2011 that his current four-year term would be his last.

“He said that he changed his mind and every human being is allowed to change his mind,” van Praag said.

Blatter arrived at the UEFA session after telling other confederations he had a burning desire to remain in office.

UEFA board members lined up later to list grievances with Blatter, including his handling of the 2022 World Cup bidding contest and subsequent issues with Qatar as host, plus criticism of European media for reporting allegations of corruption implicating FIFA officials.

In meetings with Asian and African delegates on Monday, Blatter suggested racism was a factor in the British media’s reporting of the Qatar controversy.

“I said to him, ‘I regard the comments you made about the allegations in the British media in which you described them as racist as totally unacceptable,’” Dyke told reporters.

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