FIFA President Sepp Blatter has written an open letter to Germany, via the country's biggest paper. The under-fire football figurehead says he was misunderstood when he seemed to say Germany bought the 2006 World Cup.
Sepp Blatter told readers of the mass-circulation Bild newspaper in Germany on Tuesday that he did not allege that the country bought the 2006 World Cup. The open letter follows a controversial interview with the Sonntagsblick newspaper.
Germans called it the summer fairy tale, Blatter now says it wasn't too good to be true
Blatter says in the letter that when the Swiss Sunday paper asked him about allegations of corruption pertaining to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar, he "pointed out that such accusations were even leveled at the decision to give Germany the 2006 World Cup."
The FIFA president said that he had meant to show how people "can always find an excuse" to call a decision's legitimacy into question.
"When asked whether I suspected that the 2006 World Cup had been purchased, I answered: 'No, I don't suspect. I'm making an observation.' Namely, that somebody left the room during the vote, which Germany then won by a one-vote margin," Blatter wrote.
Accusation or allegory?
Sonntagsblick had published Blatter's short response slightly differently, quoting him as saying "I suspect nothing. I'm making an observation." The controversial short answer published on Sunday had followed a longer anecdote from Blatter.
"World Cups being purchased… There I am reminded of the vote for the 2006 World Cup, where somebody left the room at the last minute. And so suddenly instead of 10-10, the vote stood at 10-9 in Germany's favor," Blatter was quoted as saying. "I'm happy that I did not have to cast the decisive extra ballot [as FIFA president]. But, well, suddenly someone stood up and left. Perhaps in that case I was also too well-meaning and too naïve."
Blatter had also addressed calls for him to resign from top German football officials in the original Sonntagsblick interview, saying German Football League (DFL) President Reinhard Rauball had phoned him to say he should quit.
In Tuesday's letter, Blatter went on to say how Germany "delivered a perfect World Cup - a summer fairy tale beyond compare, of which the entire country can be proud," alluding to the popular German-language nickname for the tournament, "Sommermärchen."
"I don't believe in conspiracy theories, rather only in facts. As long as there is no concrete evidence to hand, one must and should stick by the validity of the vote. This applies to Germany just as much as for other countries. That is the core of my message," Blatter concluded in his letter.
Blatter's letter coincides with a Tuesday meeting of FIFA's executive committee, where the body will seek to finalize a new code of ethics.
"This meeting of the executive committee was really arranged to adopt the reform process," German Football Association (DFB) President Wolfgang Niersbach said. "But this session is being completely eclipsed by what has now become public."
The FIFA president has been on the defensive since last Wednesday, when further details on long-public cases of bribery within FIFA in the 1990s came to light in a Swiss courtroom. Blatter's predecessor Joao Havelange, now FIFA's honorary president, and his former son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira were revealed as individuals who received millions from the football body's former marketing company International Sport and Leisure (ISL) - with Blatter knowing about at least one instance.
Blatter has said, however, that he thought at the time that the payment to Havelange was some kind of mistake, not a bribe, saying that the "patriarch" and multimillionaire would not have needed the money. Several top German sporting officials and politicians have put pressure on the FIFA president since the extra information was published.
"The now-public information sadly proves in a negative but imposing manner how urgently necessary the reform process at FIFA is and how important it is to establish a completely independent ethics commission and a clear code of ethics," FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger, the previous DFB president, said ahead of Tuesday's meeting.
msh/ng (AFP, dpa, SID)