Vowing to fight corruption, absolving himself of responsibility and calling on FIFA's members to help rebuild trust, FIFA president Sepp Blatter spoke in general terms about the Wednesday arrests of FIFA members following a probe by the U.S. Justice Department.
In his welcome speech on Thursday to the 65th FIFA Congress ahead of Friday's presidential election, Blatter spoke publicly for the first time since the corruption scandals threw FIFA into crisis.
"I know many people hold me responsible. We, I, cannot monitor everyone all the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it," Blatter said
"Those who are corrupt in football are in a minority, like in society and must be held responsible for their actions. Football cannot be the exception to the rule. There can be no place for corruption of any kind."
The FIFA president did not respond to questions asking why he has not resigned after American and Swiss federal corruption investigations rocked world football on Wednesday.
Blatter defied a face-to-face demand on Thursday from FIFA vice president Michel Platini to resign ahead of Friday's presidential election. The 209 presidents of FIFA's member federations will vote after UEFA announced on Thursday it would not boycott the congress.
Instead, the 79-year-old FIFA chief will go ahead to a contest against Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan. Platini has pledged UEFA's backing for Prince Ali.
"We must respond tomorrow," Blatter said of the election. "We have the opportunity to begin the long and difficult road to rebuilding trust. We have lost the trust and we must now earn it back. Solidarity and unity is asked for the game, for the world, for peace."
Blatter warned members that "the next few months will not be easy. I am sure more bad news will follow.
"There are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA," he said. "You will agree with me that these are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this congress.
"Actions of individuals have proven to bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all. We cannot allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer. It has to stop here."
The U.S. case involves bribes "totaling more than $100 million" linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for football tournaments in the United States and Latin America, leading to the indictment of nine former or current officials on Wednesday.
In a separate case in Switzerland, federal prosecutors opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, throwing FIFA deeper into crisis.
Blatter was not named in either investigation. FIFA also ruled out a revote of the World Cups won by Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
The biggest threat to Sepp Blatter's future as FIFA president may be the disclosure by the U.S. justice department's corruption indictment that World Cup bribes were channelled via a FIFA bank account.
The 164-page indictment states disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner agreed a bribe of $10 million with South African bid officials to vote for the 2010 World Cup.
Significantly, the cash was transferred via a FIFA bank account in Switzerland, on the authority of an unnamed "high-ranking FIFA official" to an American bank account controlled by Warner.
Even more damning is the indictment's statement that the money was FIFA "funds that would otherwise have gone from FIFA to South Africa to support the World Cup."
Blazer has pleaded guilty to 10 criminal charges. Warner has denied any wrongdoing. The South African Football Association has also denied any wrongdoing over its World Cup bid.
Two current FIFA vice presidents were among those indicted in the U.S. case: CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb and CONMEBOL president Eugenio Figueredo, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Others indicted were Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Rafael Esquivel, Jose Maria Marin and Nicolas Leoz.
Nine of the 14 who were indicted by the Justice Department are football officials, while four are sports marketing executives, and another works in broadcasting. On Wednesday, FIFA banned 11 from football-related activities, including Webb, Li, Rocha, Takkas, Jack Warner, Figueredo, Esquivel, Marin, Leoz, Blazer and Daryll Warner.
One of the officials who had agreed to extradition on Wednesday has since changed paths, and now plans to fight the U.S. request.
CONCACAF provisionally banned Webb on Thursday and promoted Alfredo Hawit of Honduras to confederation president.
Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.