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Blatter faces moment of truth

Sepp Blatter (left) is being challenged by Cameroon's Issa Hayatou


Voting has got under way in South Korea to decide who will become the next president of world football's governing body, FIFA.

Switzerland's Sepp Blatter, who is standing for re-election, is up against Cameroon's Issa Hayatou.

Blatter's prospects for re-election, long viewed as a fait accompli, were seen as less certain on Tuesday, after he was booed and jeered at a special congress in Seoul called to examine FIFA's finances.

Not only did Blatter prevent the head of an internal audit committee, David Will, from presenting a report into the state of FIFA's finances, he was also accused of allowing only his supporters to ask questions of the finance committee.

The 66-year-old Swiss has been accused of financial misconduct but strenuously denies the allegations, saying they are part of a smear campaign against him.

"Bad decision"

"Before the meeting, I had the feeling that Blatter would have no problem in his re-election, but now I am not quite sure," said a correspondent for Switzerland's Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Felix Reidhaar, who attended the meeting.

"His refusal to allow Will to speak was a very bad decision and it could influence the delegates from all the national associations."

Reidhaar told swissinfo that the delegates began to jeer Blatter when he prevented Will - whom he had earlier suspended - from presenting his report.

The FIFA president then went on to abruptly close the meeting before delegates from 15 national associations had been given the chance to take the floor.

Blatter said after the meeting that he was prepared to extend the congress until Thursday, if necessary, to allow everyone present the chance to ask their questions.

For his part, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, the FIFA general secretary, described Tuesday's congress meeting as "scandalous". "Blatter took questions from [national football] associations solely on his own judgement."

Zen-Ruffinen was Blatter's right-hand man until he was gagged earlier this month after accusing the president of buying votes during the last presidential election and of running FIFA like a dictatorship.

Politics vs football?

The 2002 football World Cup - jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan - is scheduled to kick off on Friday, which is when Reidhaar believes FIFA's internal politics will take a back seat.

"The main reason of football is the game," Reidhaar said.

"In the past couple of months, we have talked too much about politics in the football federation, and now we have to start speaking about the football."


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