ZURICH – While accepting the trust of world soccer has to be regained, FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded to the arrest of top officials on Wednesday by insisting it showed his efforts to eradicate corruption were working.
The deepest crisis in FIFA's 111-year history is threatening Blatter's bid to win a fifth, four-year term in a contest against Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan on Friday, with European soccer leaders trying to delay the election.
"This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organization," Blatter said in a statement. "We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us."
Blatter accepted that many in the game are "frustrated with the pace of change."
"We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing," Blatter said.
A Swiss criminal investigation into the bidding contest for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was sparked by FIFA handing over a secret ethics investigation report to authorities in November.
Electronic data and documents were seized at FIFA's headquarters early Wednesday by investigators who said they will question 10 executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.
The Swiss announcement came after 14 people were indicted in the U.S. for soccer corruption — seven of whom were arrested by Zurich police after a raid at a luxury hotel.
The detained executives, including Vice Presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo, were in the Swiss capital for the FIFA Congress.
"As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football."
"Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game," he added.
Webb and Figueredo were among 11 people provisionally suspended from world soccer by FIFA.
FIFA's ethics committee including former executive committee members Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz and Chuck Blazer were suspended despite no longer being involved in the game.
The others are Costa Rican soccer federation president Eduardo Li, Venezuela FA chief Rafael Esquivel, former Brazilian FA chief Jose Maria Marin, Costas Takkas, who works for CONCACAF President Webb, FIFA development officer Julio Rocha and Warner's son Daryll.
"For sure the damaged body is all of us ... and football fans for sure," FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio said at a hastily arranged media conference.
De Gregorio tried to protect his boss, Blatter, from the mounting crisis by saying he was untouched by the alleged corruption of others in positions of power.
"The president is not involved," De Gregorio said. "Of course he is the head of FIFA but he is not involved.
"He is the president, he is the president and in two days there are elections. If the 209 member associations, they re-elect him, then he is the president for the next four years."
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