TOKYO — FIFA president Sepp Blatter admitted on Saturday mistakes had been made but said there was no point living with regrets after a year of “ups and downs” for football’s world governing body.
Speaking in Tokyo on the eve of the Club World Cup final between Barcelona and Brazil’s Santos, Blatter, who faced calls for his resignation last month over his comments on racism, vowed to carry on and strive to improve FIFA.
Asked by AFP if he had any regrets and would do anything differently after a year in which the powerful organisation was bedevilled by accusations of corruption, he said: “Yes. But you can’t live with regrets.
“You must look with a positive approach. I still have the energy to go forward. I believe myself that we can go forward.”
He added: “I said (to fellow FIFA members) that you can’t go back to the past and with regrets for the past. That’s what I’ve said.”
It has been a turbulent year for FIFA with allegations of graft in the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and former Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam’s lifetime ban for allegedly trying to buy votes in the FIFA presidential election.
The 75-year-old Blatter, who has garnered a reputation for a long line of public relations gaffes, himself faced a storm of criticism when he said claims of racism on the pitch should be solved with a handshake.
He told media in the Japanese capital that the biggest mistake had been choosing the two World Cup hosts — Russia in 2018 and Qatar for 2022 — at the same time. That had been “totally wrong” and “not the best”, he said.
“You can’t change it, the past is the past,” he said. “Now we need to look forward.”
He said that in the first half of the year especially “our boat was not on still waters. Now we bring it back to port”.
FIFA earlier this month said it had to delay plans to publish files related to its relationship with former marketing partner International Sport and Leisure (ISL) because of a legal challenge.
Last year, BBC documentary Panorama claimed that ISL — who had obtained exclusive marketing rights for the World Cup before being liquidated in 2001 — had offered payments to three FIFA executive committee members, including Issa Hayatou, the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Blatter backed Hayatou — who denies the claims — as “a good member of the executive committee”.
“FIFA needs to lay this to rest,” he said.
The FIFA president, who was re-elected in June to another four-year term as FIFA’s president after winning a vicious battle with his rival bin Hammam, said reforms of the world body would drive it forward.
FIFA needed to “take care of public opinion”, he said, speaking after a committee meeting in Tokyo. “We will carry out if necessary the pertinent reforms,” he said.
Despite criticism, Blatter has earned a reputation as a shrewd and ruthless political operator during his 13-year tenure at FIFA, which has grown to become the world’s richest sports body with cash reserves of over $1 billion.
FIFA’s finances were “wonderful”, he said, adding that the body’s “good governance process” launched to clean up its tattered reputation would be completed by June 2013.