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May, 25, 2011

Blatter 'takes no joy' in rival's plight

FIFA chief Sepp Blatter says "he takes no joy" in seeing presidential rival Mohamed Bin Hammam hauled before the ethics committee and has rejected "ludicrous and completely reprehensible" claims that he may have masterminded the situation.

• Bin Hammam hits back at claims
• FIFA launch bribery probe
• Blatter retains African support
• Qatari World Cup team bite back
• Whistleblower to give evidence

Bin Hammam, who is the president of the Asian Football Confederation and is running against Blatter to be the new president of football's governing body, is under investigation over bribery allegations made by executive committee member Chuck Blazer.

Blazer, who is the general secretary of the CONCACAF federation, has alleged that violations were committed under the FIFA code of ethics during a meeting organised by Bin Hammam and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner on May 10 and 11 - the same time Lord Triesman had accused Warner of demanded money for a World Cup 2018 vote - in relation to the upcoming FIFA presidential election, which takes place on June 1.

FIFA announced on Wednesday that they had opened an investigation to examine the conduct of four officials - Bin Hammam and Warner, along with CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester - and that all must attend a hearing in Zurich on Sunday, May 29.

The allegations made against Bin Hammam, who is the only candidate standing against Blatter, are certain to hinder the Qataris campaign, but the current FIFA chief says it gives him no pleasure to see a close friend publicly accused of wrong doing.

Blatter said: "To make a point very clear, let me say this: I take no joy in having to observe yet another Ethics Committee hearing and investigation. And I take absolutely no joy in seeing my friends and colleagues of many years dragged before the ethics committee.

"I take no joy to see men who stood by my side for some two decades, suffer through public humiliation without having been convicted of any wrongdoing: nobody is guilty until a judge has found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

"To now assume that the present ordeal of my opponent were to fill me with some sort of perverse satisfaction or that this entire matter was somehow masterminded by me is ludicrous and completely reprehensible.

"I say it again because it is important that those who apparently know everything start understanding something that their modest intellect seems unable to take on board: I am shocked, saddened and deeply unhappy about the charges levelled against a man whose friendship I enjoyed for many years. It gives me no pleasure to see him suffer public disgrace before an investigation would even have started."

The chairman of the ethics committee, Claudio Sulser, will not oversee the proceedings because he shares Swiss nationality with Bin Hammam's presidential rival Blatter, and this could be construed as a conflict of interests. The meeting will instead be chaired by the committee's deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb of Namibia.

Blatter added: "Whatever the outcome of this most recent investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee will be, it must encourage FIFA's leadership and world football to re-invigorate its determination to do the right thing and to govern itself without any tolerance for wrongdoing in the years to come.

"FIFA does not need a revolution. What FIFA needs is iron-clad laws that are implemented forcefully and allow world football's governing body to conduct its affairs transparently, properly and professionally in every respect.

"I shall make it a key initiative of my last term as FIFA president, if re-elected, to do just that: open the doors, re-enforce dialogue, improve our corporate governance and handle our public affairs with the kind of priority it deserves and must deliver."

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