FIFA's Blatter confident of re-election

Updated: May 3, 2011, 2:18 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he came away from the CONCACAF congress Tuesday confident he'll be re-elected despite a bid to unseat him by Mohammed Bin Hammam of Qatar, the Asian Football Confederation president.

"I'm sure at the end of the day there will be no change in FIFA," Blatter said.

CONCACAF president Jack Warner said the federation is happy with Blatter's leadership but receptive to Bin Hammam's ideas. Bin Hammam didn't attend the congress because he was unable to obtain a U.S. visa, Warner said.

A meeting between Bin Hammam and CONCACAF officials was rescheduled for May 10 in Trinidad. CONCACAF is soccer's regional governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, and it's considered pivotal in the outcome of the presidential election June 1.

The congress was closed to the media, an unusual step for such sessions. Afterward, Blatter and Warner sat side by side at a news conference.

"I am, I would say, a relaxed president after the meeting," Blatter said. "I am more than confident now after this congress here that we are going forward with energy and a lot of optimism."

Blatter has led soccer's governing body since 1998, and the 75-year-old Swiss seeks a four-year term that he said will be his last. Bin Hammam is his lone opponent.

Warner advised Blatter before the congress began that campaigning by the president was unnecessary.

"President Blatter has been coming here for the last 20 years," Warner said. "If there's anybody we know, we know president Blatter. Therefore, there is nothing he can tell us that we don't know of him, or what his plans are."

FIFA has often been accused of corruption on Blatter's watch, but his support in the CONCACAF region is strong, Warner said.

"The members of the executive committee and congress, all of them, have said they're happy where they are," Warner said. "Nobody expressed any displeasure with Mr. Blatter's office. But out of fair play, they would like to hear what the other person has to say."

Warner's 35-member group will vote as a bloc. At the FIFA Congress in Zurich, the winning candidate will need a two-thirds majority on the first ballot or a simple majority on the second.

FIFA drew criticism for its methods in choosing the two most recently selected World Cup sites -- Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The decisions came at the same time, with two executive committee members barred from voting because of corruption allegations. Four other senior officials were suspended.

If re-elected, Blatter promises broad reforms in the way sites are chosen, and says he'll set up a watchdog committee to supervise how FIFA works and restore the organization's credibility.

Bin Hammam, 61, played a key role in Qatar winning the rights to the 2022 World Cup. He has proposed sharing FIFA's power and jobs with its six confederations by offering 17 extra seats on the executive body and creating legal and development teams at continental headquarters.

Some CONCACAF delegates don't know Bin Hammam well, and his absence at the congress cost him a chance to court support.

"How much it has hurt him, I really can't say," Warner said. "If he were here, it would have helped him a lot."

CONCACAF delegate Frederick Lunn of the Bahamas said the group is open-minded about Bin Hammam's candidacy.

"You have to give everyone an opportunity in this process," Lunn said. "Regardless of the outcome, to have any sort of opposition and to hear new ideas is good. You never know. He may come with a home run. It happens sometimes with the underdog."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press