Sepp Blatter has come out swinging after German football officials put pressure on the president of world football's governing body. In an interview with a top Swiss paper he suggested Germany bought the 2006 World Cup.
Asked by Swiss mass-circulation paper Blick whether he suspected that Germany had bought the 2006 World Cup, a combative Sepp Blatter said, "I suspect nothing. I'm making an observation."
This response followed a question in what Blick called "the most open interview that Sepp Blatter has ever given" about allegations that Russia and Qatar had bought the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in last year's twin vote at FIFA.
Blatter said Germany's "summer fairy tale" was too good to be true
"World Cups being purchased… There I am reminded of the World Cup vote in 2006, 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. I'm happy that I did not have to cast the decisive extra ballot [as FIFA president]," Blatter said. "But, well, suddenly someone stood up and left. Perhaps in that case I was also too well-meaning and too naïve."
Germany and South Africa, which later hosted the 2010 World Cup, were the last two countries in the running for the 2006 competition.
Blatter was speaking hours after German football officials, most notably the president of the German Football League (DFL), Reinhard Rauball, and the president of the German DFB football association, Wolfgang Niersbach, had criticized Blatter over corruption details that came to light in a Swiss courtroom on Wednesday.
Rauball said in a newspaper interview that Blatter should resign, but the FIFA president told Blick that Rauball had taken matters a step further.
"That somebody wants to get rid of me is nothing new. It just depends on the current mood. Sometimes it's the British media who want me gone, then maybe the Americans, then another day it's the Germans," Blatter said. "What is true is that Rauball called me on Friday and told me that I should resign. I told him that it's not as simple as he imagines. At the end of the day I was elected by the executive committee."
'The Kaiser' and others return fire
The 2006 World Cup's top organizer, German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer, and the organizing committee's vice president Fedor Radman both refuted Blatter's claims in Sunday interviews in the German press.
"I cannot understand the statement and suggestions made by Sepp Blatter," Beckenbauer told this Sunday's edition of the Bild am Sonntag. "He even got the result wrong. It was 12-11, not 10-9. The deciding factor was that the eight Europeans all voted in our favor."
Radman said Blatter's recollection of the vote was wrong, pointing to the 12-11 final count; he also said that the abstention did not swing the vote in Germany's favor.
"We lost a vote instead of winning one through the abstention of Charles Dempsey. Dempsey had promised the DFB to vote for England first and then for Germany once England was eliminated," Radman told the Tagesspiegel.
New Zealander Dempsey was the Oceania representative at the vote. He cited personal reasons for his abstention and had complained of being pressured before the vote. He died in 2008.
Blatter has been on the defensive all week since long-running allegations of corruption dating back to the 1990s were presented in black and white at a trial in Switzerland. Blatter has also conceded knowing about one payment from FIFA's now-defunct marketing company International Sport and Leisure (ISL), to his predecessor as FIFA president, Joao Havelange.
The current president told Blick Havelange's fate would be decided at the next congressional meeting of FIFA's executive committee, but added that in his opinion Havelange "has to go."
He also told the paper that an official, who he did not name, tried to bribe him in 1986, but said he gave the money back after consulting his accountant.
"There wasn't an ethics committee [at FIFA] at the time. He gave me the money. I gave it back. End of story," Blatter said, when asked whether he had sought punishment for the person who apparently sought to bribe him.
After that, Blatter said, nobody ever tried to bribe him again.
msh/pfd (AP, dpa, SID)