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Victorious Blatter sees off remaining problems

Blatter in triumph after his re-election on Wednesday

(Keystone)

Two days after winning re-election as head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter has seen off his most dangerous detractor and had corruption charges against him dropped.

As the World Cup kicks off in Seoul, South Korea, the head of football's world governing body has already won a tougher battle than any team is likely to face.

His general secretary and chief critic, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, has agreed to resign on July 4 after attending a closed executive committee meeting in Seoul. He had accused Blatter of financial mismanagement and steering FIFA into bankruptcy.

And a group of leading FIFA members who brought a criminal complaint against Blatter in Switzerland has also agreed to drop the action.

Swiss prosecutors on Friday refused to comment on whether they intended to press ahead with an investigation into the allegations. But they told swissinfo that they had yet to receive formal notification that the legal complaint had been dropped.

The developments bring an end to a bitter dispute between Blatter and Zen-Ruffinen, which are widely thought to have damaged the reputation of FIFA and world football.

Zen-Ruffinen departure

Zen-Ruffinen's departure, announced after a closed-door meeting in Seoul on Friday, was widely expected. Blatter told reporters after his re-election on Wednesday that his general secretary was "in trouble", and he was quoted in the Swiss tabloid "Blick" as saying that Zen-Ruffinen would be gone before Friday's World Cup kick-off.

FIFA spokesman Keith Cooper told a news conference in Seoul that Zen-Ruffinen and the FIFA executive had agreed terms on terminating his contract. He said Zen-Ruffinen would "continue to be in charge of the operations of the World Cup" and would leave on July 4.

Zen-Ruffinen, a lawyer and former international referee, was promoted through FIFA by Blatter but he spectacularly broke ranks in early May when he circulated a document detailing his allegations against Blatter.

He accused his boss of making unauthorized payments to Russia's soccer chief and a referee from Niger, as well as a string of other misdeeds.

Criminal complaint

The allegations were jumped upon by Blatter's opponents and 11 of the 24-member FIFA executive committee used them as the basis of a criminal complaint.

Zen-Ruffinen said that he had been concerned about the financial situation at FIFA for some time, but had kept quiet because he wanted to try to solve the problem. He finally spoke out because his belief in the good of soccer transcended his loyalty to Blatter, he said.

Following Blatter's re-election, Zen-Ruffinen said he would not resign. "But I imagine [Blatter] and the executive committee will wish to part from my company."

His days were seen as numbered after Blatter won re-election on Wednesday after defeating African soccer head Issa Hayatou of Cameroon 139-56 in voting by FIFA member nations.

swissinfo with agencies

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