Zurich: A new election triumph in the midst of a corruption scandal established FIFA president Sepp Blatter as the politician who can come through any storm. Unapologetically divisive, Blatter has had to deal with scandal virtually since his first day in office.
And Blatter knows that he still has a long way to go to reach the aim he outlined Friday of getting FIFA in a safe port "where the boats will stop rocking."
"He sees it all like a marathon. And he is one of the most determined men you will meet," said one FIFA executive member about the 79-year-old Swiss official.
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Blatter was on Friday re-elected as the president of the world football governing body, FIFA, for the fifth consecutive time after his challenger Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein conceded defeat.
The duel between incumbent Sepp Blatter and Prince Ali bin al Hussein for the FIFA presidency went into a second round on Friday when Blatter fell seven votes short of the required majority. Blatter, seeking a fifth term, got 133 votes in the first round, with 140 needed for the two thirds majority. The Jordanian prince, a FIFA vice president campaigning for reform of the scandal tainted organisation, got 73 as three member associations' votes were deemed invalid in the 209 member federation.
Blatter, who has been at FIFA for 40 years, 17 as its president, went into the vote revered by some as the beautiful game's 'Jesus' and scorned by others as a rogue clinging to power.
The voting was about to enter the second round where Blatter needed only a simple majority i.e. 105 votes to get re-elected when the 39-year-old Jordanian chose to withdraw, handing the incumbent president his fifth consecutive victory.
The elections took place following a big scandal in which seven top FIFA officials were arrested here on Wednesday morning as part of a US prosecution that indicted nine football officials and five corporate executives. Blatter faced calls to resign, including from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said in Berlin on Thursday that Blatter should quit "the sooner the better".
The vote came two days after FIFA vice-presidents Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo and Caymanian Jeffrey Webb, who is also president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean association football (CONCACAF), as well as the former president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz were held in the US fraud inquiry.
Current and former FIFA executives indicted include Rafael Esquivel, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin. They were accused of bribery, racketeering and money-laundering involving more than $100 million since 1991.
In explaining why the US Justice Department was prosecuting leaders of FIFA, Attorney General Loretta Lynch had said the defendants and their co-conspirators partially planned their scheme in the US, used the US banking system to pay bribes and "planned to profit from their scheme in large part through promotional efforts directed at the growing US market for football".
Swiss prosecutors have also launched a separate investigation into the bidding process for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.
Many of FIFA's major sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Visa, Adidas, McDonald's, Hyundai Motor and Budweiser, have expressed concern over the investigations.
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