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FIFA must carry flame of honesty, says Blatter

ESPN staff
June 11, 2014 « Mauresmo kept Murray waiting | Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »
Sepp Blatter made a U-turn on standing for a fifth © Getty Images
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Embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter said world football's governing body was facing "important times" and must "carry the flame of honesty" as he delivered his opening address to its 64th congress in Rio on Wednesday.

Blatter, facing an increasing storm over the organisation's controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, did not confirm whether he intended to run for a fifth term as president.

Any such announcement is likely to be saved for his full presidential address but he alluded to the possibility of trying for a further stint, saying FIFA needed "stable leadership to guide the way."

Last month, the 78-year-old said he wanted to stand for a fifth term, a U-turn after he had previously said he would stand down when his current term ends next year.

On Wednesday, he addressed delegates from FIFA's 209 member nations hours after representatives of European football associations urged him to step aside rather than run again.

He told delegates of football's role as a force for good in the world and even suggested it could one day be played on other planets, with interplanetary cups competed for.

"These are important times for FIFA," Blatter said. "The world is changing, and the game must change with it. It is our duty to keep soccer going forward but also to keep our governance and control bodies installed.

"Our duty is not only to develop the game, it is also to ensure the integrity of the game and protect the game, the game of the people. We shall be proud to see the impact of the game on our world.

"Football is not just a game, it is a multi-billion dollar business. I don't know if that is good or not. It creates controversial situations and then some difficulties. In this changing world, little is beyond the reach of politics and economics.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let's go together forward for the good of the game. We must carry the flame of honesty or we betray the true spirit of this game we love." Blatter said FIFA's "basic values of discipline, respect and fair play could be brought in everywhere in the world, and then we would have realised our objective - but our objective never finishes."

He said football is enjoyed "from north to west to east and south" and added: "We shall wonder if one day our game is played on other planets. Then one day we won't have the World Cup, we will have interplanetary contests."

On Tuesday, Blatter was condemned by FA chief Greg Dyke, who hit out at his claim that racism was behind allegations of corruption over the awarding of the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Dyke described those remarks as "offensive" and told reporters: "I said: 'I regard the comments you made yesterday about the allegations in the British media in which you described them as racist as totally unacceptable.'"

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