‘Black Day in Zurich,’ Former Players Say About Blatter’s Return

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Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. Photographer: Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Sepp Blatter’s return as FIFA president has left former soccer players wondering how the man who has presided over the governing body as it lurched from one corruption crisis to another over 17 years could hold onto power for a fifth term.

Blatter, 79, won after his only remaining challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, withdrew after being outvoted 133-73 in the first round of Friday’s balloting.

Blatter’s re-election comes two days after nine FIFA officials were charged by U.S. authorities with crimes including racketeering, bribery and fraud over a 24-year period. Swiss authorities are also investigating the award of the next two World Cups to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

“I take the responsibility to bring back FIFA. I am confident we can do it,” Blatter said in Switzerland.

Reaction included:

Luis Figo, 42, formerly of Real Madrid and Barcelona and 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year, who withdrew from the presidential election on May 21:

“Today was another black day in Zurich.

‘‘You cannot lead FIFA making a mockery of the most basic rules of transparency, the rule of law and democracy.

‘‘The fact that the man responsible for FIFA reaching this point has been re-elected shows the organization is sick.’’

Gary Lineker, 54, who scored an English record 10 World Cup goals:

‘‘All those FIFA members that voted for Blatter have betrayed the game they are supposed to cherish.

‘‘The only way this revolting organization will change is if the major football federations walk out.’’

Louis Saha, 36, former Manchester United striker and member of France’s national team:

‘‘The amount of global media attention this story has generated is pretty much unprecedented; to the point where it’s taken away the attention from the actual sport.

‘‘Who the president of FIFA is shouldn’t matter -- the focus needs to be on the sport and nothing else. What we’re currently faced with is a top tier that’s got too much power to the point where it’s damaging the industry at large.’’

Kyle Martino, 34, former U.S. international and NBC commentator for Major League Soccer:

‘‘As boss #Sepp, the only thing worse than knowledge of widespread company immorality is no knowledge of it.’’

Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer Federation president who voted for Prince Ali after nominating him in January.

‘‘Our goal is for governance of FIFA that is responsible, accountable, transparent and focused solely on the best interests of the game.

‘‘This is what FIFA needs and deserves, and what the people who love our game around the world demand. We congratulate President Blatter and it is our hope he will make reform his number one priority to ensure the integrity of the sport across the world.’’

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