FIFA President Sepp Blatter
said on Saturday that he had "regrets" following a
scandal-tainted year in which football's governing body lurched
from one crisis to another.
Blatter again defended the decision to award the 2018 and
2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar but said announcing the
choices at the same time may have been a mistake.
"This is a justified question after a year of ups and
downs," Blatter told reporters after a FIFA Executive Committee
meeting in Tokyo on the sidelines of the Club World Cup.
"It was not the best and most intelligent decision of FIFA
to announce the two World Cup simultaneously," said the
75-year-old on the eve of Barcelona's final with Santos in
"It was wrong and it caused a lot of disturbances earlier
this year," he added of the controversy and subsequent blaze of
corruption revelations triggered by the choices.
"The past is past and we have to look forward. The boat is
still not in still waters but we are bringing it back to port.
"Regrets, yes. But you can't live in regret. You can have
regrets but you can't go back and change the past,
"You must have have a positive approach and I have the
energy to go forward and bring back the credibility of FIFA and
take care of public opinion."
Blatter, re-elected for a fourth term in June unopposed
after then Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam was booted out
of FIFA in a cash-for-votes scandal, has his work cut out.
The Swiss provoked negative headlines last month by saying
any incidents of racist abuse on the pitch should be settled
with a handshake after the game.
Blatter said his comments had been misunderstood and
rejected widespread calls for him to resign.
Having launched new anti-corruption measures in October,
Blatter again defended the choice of surprise winners Qatar for
the 2022 World Cup against outside criticism.
"The 2022 World Cup will be in Qatar and I don't know who
can change this decision," said Blatter, responding to remarks
made by new Australia football boss Frank Lowy.
"I personally will intervene if FIFA executive members
continue with such declarations [accusations]. I understand
about the incident in Australia but the case is closed now."
He added: "The World Cup shall be accessible to all cultures
and it was time... to bring it to the Arab world."
Lowy was quoted last month as saying the tiny Gulf state,
whose bid was dogged by corruption allegations, could still be
stripped of the 2022 finals.
Qatar's bid leaders strongly denied any wrong-doing but
emotions still run high as the beleaguered FIFA president did
his best fire-fighting job.
"Our reforms are on the right track," said Blatter, coming
up for air briefly to announce Morocco would host the 2013 and
2014 Club World Cup tournaments.
"FIFA will respond to public opinion."
Blatter's pledge to reopen the case into the collapse of
former marketing partner ISL has also been stalled after being
tied up in a Swiss appeals court.
"The court has not made a decision on opening the file,"
Blatter said. "We want to open it as soon as possible and forget
about the past. FIFA needs to lay this ISL issue to rest."
ISL went bankrupt in 2001 and BBC's Panorama programme
reported last year that documents showed senior FIFA officials
were paid kickbacks for granting ISL lucrative World Cup
television and sponsorship rights in the 1990s.
The programme named them as executive committee members
Ricardo Teixeira, Issa Hayatou and Nicolas Leoz, all of whom
denied the claims.
Blatter offered his backing to Hayatou, head of the
Confederation of African Football, and expressed confidence in
Brazil's ability to host a successful 2014 World Cup.
The future of Teixeira, president of the Brazilian Football
Confederation and 2014 World Cup organising committee, appeared
less secure, however.
"Mr Teixeria has asked for leave until the end of January,"
said Blatter, who plans to meet Brazil's head of state to speed
up the country's lagging preparations for 2014.
"Until then he is out of FIFA, out of the organising
committee. At the end of January we will come back to that."
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