The Fifa “family” mounted a concerted fightback over the bribery allegations bedevilling the football governing body, rounding on politicians, journalists and others for interfering in its business.
Sepp Blatter duly secured his re-election as Fifa president on Wednesday after the governing body rejected an English-led attempt to postpone the vote, receiving 186 of the 203 votes cast.
But he admitted he had been “personally slapped” by the bribery scandal and internecine struggle engulfing the organisation.
A mandate for a fourth four-year term of office became a formality for the 75-year-old Swiss, the only candidate, once the annual two-day Fifa Congress of 206 members voted 172 to 17 against the England FA proposal to delay the vote. A further 17 votes were not recorded.
In his address to the Congress, Mr Blatter admitted that Fifa was in “troubled waters” but he again insisted that the governing body was capable of sorting out its problems internally. “We have been hit and I personally have been slapped,” he said. “I am the captain weathering the storm. Not only is our pyramid shaking but our ship is taking water.”
He described Fifa’s predicament as “undignified”, and proposed some measures to reform the governing body. These include giving the wider Congress rather than Fifa’s 24-member executive committee responsibility for choosing where future World Cups are to be held, strengthening its ethics committee, and using consultants from outside Fifa. One of these, he later suggested, could be Henry Kissinger, the 88-year-old former US secretary of state.
He also said that Fifa, which is under pressure from World Cup sponsors to reform itself, should call a one-day extraordinary Congress to tackle the corruption issues and “to stop the ugly insinuations”.
Later, he revealed he had been in contact with two of Fifa’s main sponsors who were “a little bit concerned” with recent developments and wanted to see the organisation “in better order”. But he said he was confident they would stick with Fifa.
The mood of the Congress was to close ranks, with several heads of football federations defending the governing body against waves of criticism, and pouring scorn on the UK parliament for raising corruption allegations against Fifa executive committee (Exco) members.
Proposing the postponement, David Bernstein, FA chairman, said: “A coronation without election is a flawed mandate.”
But while his was the only voice to speak up for the postponement, there was no shortage of countries prepared to declare their opposition to the idea, including Argentina, Haiti, Congo, Benin, Fiji and Cyprus.
Julio Grondona, a senior vice-president from Argentina, said: “We always have attacks from England which are mostly lies with the support of journalism which is more busy lying than telling the truth. This upsets and disturbs the Fifa family.” He added: “It looks like England is always complaining, so please, I say will you leave the Fifa family alone, and when you speak, speak with truth.”
Mr Blatter did not discuss the bribery scandal in which Fifa has suspended two Exco members over alleged payments of $40,000 to Caribbean football officials at a presidential election campaign meeting earlier this month.
Mohamed bin Hammam, who withdrew his candidacy for the presidency on Sunday, and Jack Warner, both deny the allegations.
However, Germany added its voice to the corruption issue. Theo Zwanziger, head of Germany’s football federation, said the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar should be re-examined because of comments made by Jerome Valcke, Fifa’s secretary-general, in a leaked e-mail that the Gulf state had “bought” the tournament. Qatar’s 2022 victory “requires closer consideration”, Mr Zwanziger said.
Fifa also received a warning from the European Club Association that it must reform.