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May 28, 2015

Blatter says scandal brought shame and humiliation to soccer

ZURICH -- Shame and humiliation have been brought on FIFA following the turbulent events of the last two days which included the arrest of leading soccer officials at their Zurich hotel, the world soccer body's president Sepp Blatter said on Thursday.

Blatter, making his first public appearance since Wednesday's extraordinary events which critics said marked a new low for his federation, said there was no room "for corruption of any kind".

"The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over soccer and this Congress," Blatter, who is standing for a fifth mandate in Friday's presidential election where Prince Ali bin Al Hussein is his only challenger, said in his opening speech to FIFA's annual Congress in Zurich.

"They bring shame and humiliation to soccer and demand change from us all. We cannot allow the reputation of FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer."

Ignoring calls to step down because of the corruption scandal, Blatter said: "I know many people hold me ultimately responsible....(but) I cannot monitor everyone all the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it."

Seven of the most powerful figures in global soccer were arrested on Wednesday in a dawn raid on a luxury hotel that FIFA used to host visiting officials, and face extradition to the United States on corruption charges.

The Swiss authorities also announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups being hosted in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

U.S. authorities said nine soccer officials and five sports media and promotions executives faced corruption charges involving more than $150 million in bribes.

"Football cannot be the exception to the rule, that is our responsibility at FIFA, and we will co-operate if anyone is involved in wrong doing," said Blatter.

"There can be no place for corruption of any kind."

"Let this be the turning point. More needs to be done to make sure everyone in soccer behaves responsibly and ethically."

"Football deserves so much more and we must respond. Tomorrow, at the Congress, we ... will begin a long and difficult road.

"We have lost trust, at least part of it, and we must now earn it back, through the decisions we make.

"We like this game ... not for greed, not for exploiting, not for power, but because of the love of the game. Solidarity and unity is asked for the game, for the world, for peace."