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Blatter vows to exorcise football’s “evils”

Blatter wants football to show a clean pair of hands Keystone

Two months ahead of the World Cup finals in Germany, Fifa president Sepp Blatter tells swissinfo that the fight against racism and corruption is far from over.

The Swiss also admits that world football’s governing body may have misjudged last November’s explosive World Cup play-off between Switzerland and Turkey.

Blatter, who formally announced last month that he would seek a third term as president of Zurich-based Fifa, says he is confident of overcoming the “evils in the game”.

As for the World Cup finals in Germany, which kick off on June 9, Blatter expects the sport to show its best side.

He is confident that hooliganism will not pose a problem because “99 per cent of spectators are in favour of a peaceful World Cup”.

On Wednesday the Council of Europe urged the Fifa president to condemn prostitution during the tournament, following claims that up to 60,000 women from eastern Europe could be smuggled into Germany by criminal gangs.

Speaking in Geneva, Blatter revealed that Fifa had been inundated with emails protesting at the reports but said his organisation could not intervene in an internal matter for the host country.

swissinfo: You say the beautiful game is blighted by racism, corruption, cheating and diving. With this in mind, why are you standing for a third term as president?

Sepp Blatter: Because I have not finished my mission. My mission will be finished when we have opened the World Cup in South Africa [in 2010] and when we have found in the meantime solutions to all these problems which are in the game. But the game is so good, so strong and so universal that with the will of the Fifa congress it will be possible to overcome these different evils.

swissinfo: Many Swiss were unhappy with the punishments meted out by Fifa after the World Cup qualifier against Turkey, especially the six-match ban for Benjamin Huggel. They say Fifa failed to react to warning signs in the run-up to the match.

S.P.: Maybe we did not take elementary precautions for this match but at the same it is a mark of basic respect that a visiting team will be received like a friendly party and not as in this case. We now know that in future we have to make sure that our commissioner and our director for security should already be there when teams arrive – anywhere in the world, not only in Turkey.

The reason why the disciplinary committee was so harsh was because if you have violent conduct during a match you will be automatically expelled and normally receive a two- or three-match suspension. But in this case it occurred after the match and it provoked a general brawl, and that’s why the penalties were so high.

I cannot help because we have a total separation between the executive [arm] on one side and the legal on the other. But, as a football player, six matches would have hurt me.

swissinfo: As a Swiss, what do you make of the current problems over the financing of Euro 2008, which is being hosted jointly by Switzerland and Austria?

S.P.: I think the Swiss, as individuals, and the political parties have not yet understood what it means to organise a European championship and the impact such an event has on the whole country – socially, culturally, economically and politically. Everybody should be happy to participate and to say, “OK, it is going to cost something”. But you know the Swiss are greedy!

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont in Geneva

Swiss preparations for Euro 2008 have been dogged by long-running disagreements over who should foot the bill.

Last month the House of Representatives agreed to provide up to SFr82.5 million ($63.6 million) in federal funding for the event. But on Tuesday a Senate committee said the host cities – Bern, Basel, Geneva and Zurich – should make a contribution of SFr10.5 million in total.

Following violent scenes at last November’s World Cup play-off between Switzerland and Turkey in Istanbul, Fifa cracked down hard on both teams.

Turkey were ordered to play their next six home matches at a neutral venue. Two Turkish players were suspended for six games, as was Switzerland’s Benjamin Huggel.

Zurich-based Fifa announced a profit of SFr214 million for 2005.
It says the staging of this year’s World Cup, which kicks off on June 9, will cost SFr871 million.
Blatter was elected Fifa’s eighth president in 1998.
His second term as president is due to end in 2007 but he has said he will stand for re-election.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR