Fifa President Sepp Blatter held a news conference in Abidjan on Tuesday as he began a tour of Africa to rally support behind his bid to retain the top job in world football.
26th March 2002 | 08:02:00 PM. )
His rival, Caf President Issa Hayatou, is also in Abidjan, and is due to make a statement later.
Both men are officially in Ivory Coast for a conference on youth sport, but that has been overshadowed by the Fifa election.
Blatter got into campaign mode today, telling journalists, « Football associations should not just look at my four years as Fifa president, but at over quarter of a century in the service of football and development. »
He said he felt at home in Africa, and believed in the ability of its players.
« That’s why I agreed Africa should host the 2010 world cup, » he said.
Blatter went on to talk about protecting younger players, and introducing dual nationality for African players.
« It’s not fair that a 16-year-old should lose his own nationality in exchange for a couple of years of flash in the pan fame, and then find he can no longer return to his own country. »
Concerning television rights for the World Cup, he confirmed that all African countries except South Africa would be able to broadcast matches free of charge.
He was quizzed about the allegations of bribery in his election win in 1998, but refused to answer them directly.
As far as I am concerned this matter was cleared up. However, we have lodged a complaint against the person attacking us, (Somalia FA’s Farah Addo), because his accusations weaken Fifa, not just myself. »
Blatter did however confirm that his annual salary was US$4m.
« At least I can offer you transparency. You may not get the same thing from the African Federation, or any other, » he said.
On the fringes of the press conference, a scuffle broke out when Blatter’s campaign manager, Jacques Champagne, asked Hayatou’s special adviser, Simplice Zinzou, to move aside for the TV cameras.
Zinzou took offence and yelled, « You don’t have the right to manhandle me like that », as he pushed him away.
Blatter left in his limousine for a private audience with President Gbagbo