Swiss FIFA head gains key Asian support

Asia's new football boss backed FIFA chief Sepp Blatter for a controversial fifth term on Friday as the veteran Swiss dropped a strong hint that he may break promises to step down in 2015.

Swiss FIFA head gains key Asian support
Sepp Blatter: campaigning for a further term? Photo: Marcello Casal Jr.

Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa gave Blatter his unqualified support a day after being elected as head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), a result hailed as "brilliant" by the FIFA president.

"I've just finished my election yesterday. In 2015, we will have to wait and see," Sheikh Salman said, after chairing his first AFC congress in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
"Of course he's (Blatter) always been a supporter of Asia and if he can 
fulfil and continue as a president, of course I will support him."
The Bahraini royal was speaking after Blatter cheekily joked about staying 
on during an address to hundreds of football delegates at the AFC congress.
"This will be the last term, not of office — the last term of the reform," 
he said with a smile, referring to a process scheduled to be finished by 2015, when he will also complete his latest term.
When Blatter, 77, was re-elected to the post in 2011, during a raging row 
over corruption, he pledged reforms to clean up the world body and also promised his fourth four-year term would be his last.
Blatter has faced calls to resign this week for not doing more to stop 
bribes being paid to senior FIFA officials, including ex-leader Joao Havelange who stepped down as honorary president.
He declined to discuss the subject when questioned by AFP on Friday.

However, the veteran Swiss campaigner appears emboldened by Thursday's election of Sheikh Salman to the AFC presidency and FIFA executive committee.
The result sweeps away any remaining influence of former AFC boss Mohamed 
bin Hammam, who challenged Blatter for the FIFA leadership in 2011 but was accused of vote-buying and banned from football.
Asked by AFP whether Blatter had supported his campaign, Sheikh Salman said 
he had had no contact with the colourful Swiss before the vote.
"I haven't met him, I didn't see him since he arrived until the congress, 
so I've only seen him during the congress and after," he said.
However, both men spoke with the same voice on Friday when they said Asia, 
which provides 50 percent of FIFA's revenues, according to Blatter, deserved to have more teams at future editions of the World Cup.
Blatter said the move, at Europe or South America's expense, would be 
discussed at FIFA's May 30-31 congress in Mauritius, in comments that were also backed by Sheikh Salman.
Asia currently has four automatic slots with another available via a 
play-off, while Europe has 13 of the total of 32 teams.
"The teams have progressed very well in the last few years and I hope we 
can earn more slots in the World Cup," Sheikh Salman said.
"I'm sure it would be an incentive for them to do well and hopefully 
develop the game more in their countries, and the competition will be greater."
Cutting Europe's representation would be seen as slight to UEFA chief 
Michel Platini, another Blatter rival who is widely expected to challenge for the FIFA leadership in 2015.

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Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

Three former German football officials and ex-FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi went on trial on Monday in Switzerland over suspicions that Germany bought votes to obtain the 2006 World Cup.

Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

The three defendants have indicated that they will not be present at the hearing in Bellinzona for a variety of reasons, including fear of travelling because of coronavirus contagion.

Swiss Linsi, 70, former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfgang Niersbach, 69, and Theo Zwanziger, 74, and 78-year-old former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt are being prosecuted for “fraud”.

They are accused by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office (BA) of concealing from the DFB the true destination of a transfer of 6.7 million euros ($7.6 million today), paid in 2005 by the organising committee to former Adidas boss, the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, via FIFA.

The case of former World Cup organising committee chairman Franz Beckenbauer is being heard separately because of the former Germany captain's poor health.

The investigation was prompted by a report in German publication Der Spiegel in 2015 that Germany had used a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros at the time) to buy votes and obtain the rights to host the competition at the expense of South Africa.

Beckenbauer is suspected of having asked Louis-Dreyfus, to contribute to this fund shortly before the vote on the host in the summer of 2000.

Louis-Dreyfus was allegedly reimbursed by the German Football Association on the pretext of expenses related to a FIFA gala evening, which ever took place.

Zwanziger, Niersbach and Schmidt have also been charged with tax fraud in Germany and the case is expected to come to trial in the coming months. cpb/pb/td