SEPP Blatter has insisted he has not resigned as Fifa president but the world governing body says the 79-year-old still plans to leave the position.
Blatter announced on 2 June that he would step down from the Fifa presidency at an extraordinary congress to be held between December and March. It followed the crisis that engulfed Fifa, with 18 people indicted in the United States on football-related corruption charges.
Now, in what is seen by some as a mischief-making attempt to unsettle his critics, Blatter used his first public appearance since his announcement to say, according to Swiss newspaper Blick: “I have not resigned, I put my mandate in the hands of an extraordinary congress.”
It follows reports in the Swiss media that Blatter may consider putting his name forward again after being contacted by supportive national associations.
A Fifa source insisted however that Blatter has no intention of standing as a candidate again, saying: “Nothing has changed, he is not going to stand.”
An official Fifa statement confirmed the quotes in Blick were accurate but added: ‘’However, they are fully in line with the speech of the president on 2 June.’’
In that statement on 2 June, Blatter did not use the word “resign” but said he would “lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress” but until that election, he will continue as president.
He did add, however, that the election would be for his “successor” and said: “I shall not be a candidate.”
Speaking at the Fifa Museum in Zurich, Blatter also said he was “not ready for a museum, or for a waxwork”.
He added: “Only those who know the past can understand the present and shape the future. Or in other words: the ball is round – but only those who come from outer space know the actual dimensions of our sport.”
Blatter has a tendency to play with words, leaving Fifa to clarify his meaning. Previously, he has spoken of a “mistake” in the awarding of the 2022 World Cup before it was later explained that he meant the error lay in choosing to play in the summer heat in Qatar. The tournament is now scheduled for November-December 2022.
Doubts about Blatter’s promise to leave office were also fuelled by Swiss public relations executive Klaus Stoehlker, who served as a campaign adviser ahead of Blatter’s recent re- election win.
“The president is fully prepared to step down but only if there is a competitor who is able to take over the job,” Stoehlker said on 15 June, comparing Blatter to an ancient Swiss warrior. “The Swiss warrior takes decisions, and perhaps when the war is changing, he makes a new decision.”
Blatter has not fully explained why he announced he would leave office just four days after winning re-election to a fifth term amid a crisis provoked by American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption linked to Fifa.
American law enforcement officials have confirmed that Blatter is a target of their investigation into widespread bribery and racketeering linked to broadcast rights and hosting votes for international tournaments.
Four football and marketing officials have already made guilty pleas and 14 more were named in an indictment published on 27 May.
Seven of the indicted men were arrested on corruption charges in early morning raids on Fifa’s favourite luxury hotel in Zurich and have since been detained awaiting extradition to the United States.
Blatter’s attendance at the Women’s World Cup final in Canada next week now appears to be in jeopardy due to the twin investigations by American and Swiss justice authorities.
A source close to Fifa said the crisis is having a bearing over whether Blatter travels to Canada. The Swiss attorney general is also investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Blatter would normally attend the final and hand over the trophy to the captain of the winning team but a Fifa spokesperson said: “In terms of the Fifa president and the Fifa secretary general, their future travel plans will be confirmed in due course.”