Sepp Blatter and Issa Hayatou, the two rival candidates in the increasingly bitter FIFA presidential election, went head-to-head yesterday for the first time with the agenda dominated by the continuing row over finances.
Current president Blatter and his challenger Hayatou addressed the 26th UEFA Congress in Stockholm, with both men pressing their claim to be the most powerful man in world football.
Blatter, in an uncharacteristically stumbling speech, made no secret of his concern at the bad publicity generated by his unilateral suspension of the investigation into FIFA’s finance – a move which has upset many of FIFA’s leading members.
The Swiss lawyer appealed for « internal quarrels » to be kept in-house rather than in the public eye, and insisted he was not trying to reduce Europe’s influence in world football.
Blatter said: « Allow me to seize the opportunity to brush aside once and for all those pernicious rumours that it is my intention to reduce the importance of European football. I would be a fool to do so.
« On May 29 in Seoul, let us have a football match with fair play, and let the national associations decide on the future of our game. »
Hayatou, from Cameroon, did his hopes of being elected on May 29 no harm with an assured speech promising an end to the secrecy which has shrouded FIFA’s finances.
He said: « FIFA has to be publicly accountable, to open its accounts to the members, to the public, to the press.
That’s why I propose a maximum two terms for the president. There must be a better distribution of World Cup places. Europe will not lose any World Cup places but there must be more justice in the system for smaller countries to benefit. »
Former French great Michel Platini took two large strides towards sporting political power after being elected to the executive committees of both FIFA and UEFA. Lennart Johansson was re-elected unopposed as UEFA president and will serve another four years.
(c) Copyright Express Newspapers 2002.
Source: THE EXPRESS 26/04/2002 P77