ZURICH - FIFA needs to reform and set
about doing so quickly, Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey
warned in a pointed address to delegates at the opening ceremony
of the world football body's 61st Congress on Tuesday.
After opening addresses from beleaguered FIFA president Sepp
Blatter and Jacques Rogge, the president of the International
Olympic Committee, Calmy-Rey warned FIFA to waste no time in
getting its house in order.
She hoped also that it would not be long before women were
seen among the members of the 24-man executive committee.
FIFA has been rocked by a series of scandals recently and
Calmy-Rey urged the governing body to "take seriously the many
criticisms voiced about corruption and a lack of transparency.
"It is important you examine them swiftly and take the
necessary measures to reform your governance. It is of the
utmost importance because your organisation should be an example
not only to young people but to the world at large.
"What is important is to restore full confidence in the
organisation; let not money spoil your ideals," she added.
"This is not the time for a catenaccio defence but time for
a courageous offensive on the pitch of transparency to reclaim
integrity, respect, tolerance and team spirit.
"FIFA is important to Switzerland so I wish you the energy
necessary to overcome the many challenges which face you."
Blatter had earlier opened the Congress, warning of the
dangers the governing body is facing.
Welcoming FIFA's 208 delegates at a ceremony featuring
jugglers, folk dancers and singer Grace Jones, Blatter said he
would speak in more detail about the problems facing FIFA before
the business part of the Congress starts on Wednesday.
However, he warned: "I thought we were living in a world of
fair play, respect and discipline but I must unfortunately say
this is no longer the case because our pyramid, the famous FIFA
pyramid, is suddenly unsure on its basis and there is danger."
Two Confederation presidents, Mohamed Bin Hammam of Asia and
Jack Warner of CONCACAF, have been banned from the Congress
after being suspended from all football related activity on
Blatter continued: "Tomorrow, dear friends, when I open the
Congress agenda, I will speak of the danger lurking and I will
tell you how we can fight this threat of danger, how our sport
can play its role in bringing people together in the future.
"Tonight we want to meet in a festive atmosphere, but to
keep the fascination of our sport we must respect it, it's up to
all of us. It's our game, all of us have a duty to protect this
sport and this is what we want to do. I am certain we will
Blatter is expected to be re-elected by acclamation for a
fourth term on Wednesday, although a number of associations
including England and Scotland could call for the election to be
postponed in the light of the corruption claims.
Rogge recalled the IOC's own cash-for votes crisis over the
2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
Appearing to lend support to Blatter, who sits on the IOC as
FIFA president, he told delegates: "FIFA is now facing
allegations and controversy.
"Thirteen years ago we had to face the same ordeal regarding
the Salt Lake City Games. The IOC however ultimately emerged a
stronger organisation and from within.
"I will definitely not point the finger, nor be lecturing,
but I am sure that FIFA can emerge stronger and from within."
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