Blatter rejects talks of avoiding FBI

Sepp BlatterSepp Blatter says he has no fear of setting foot in the United States — no matter what the FBI might be doing.

The FIFA president insisted on Friday, he is not avoiding the U.S., despite a reported probe implicating two of his former FIFA colleagues in financial corruption.

In fact, Blatter plans an American visit in June 2016 for the Copa America tournament.

“I will be there if elected,” said Blatter, who is widely expected to win another term in the FIFA presidential vote on May 29. “Even if not elected, they will invite me I am sure.”

Just two weeks before the election that would extend his 17-year reign in world soccer’s top job, Blatter is pursuing a low-key campaign. Blatter talked about his latest soccer peacemaking mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories, and hinted at changing how nations qualify to play in and bid to host the World Cup; and sent a letter to 209 voting federations explaining his priorities.

The single page document — including the slogan “Develop the game, touch the world and build a better future” — is as near as Blatter has come to a campaign manifesto for a fifth presidential term. Fighting discrimination and match-fixing and helping professional clubs would be key.

He denied avoiding the United States amid reports that the FBI is investigating former leaders of CONCACAF, the U.S.-based regional soccer body which gets millions of dollars each year from FIFA.

Blatter said he was aware that Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and Chuck Blazer of the United States, both one-time FIFA executive committee members, were under scrutiny.

Blatter visited the U.S. in May 2011 for a CONCACAF meeting in Miami and returned weeks later for a Gold Cup semifinal match in Houston. ESPN claimed he has purposely stayed away since.

On Friday, Blatter said he “can go there” and noted there are international channels for authorities “if they want to speak with me.”

If re-elected, Blatter is likely to travel to North America for the Women’s World Cup kick off in Canada in June, and the FIFA congress scheduled in Mexico City next May. But his next visit to the U.S. could be for the centenary Copa America, the South American championship being hosted next year as a one-off by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The U.S. also hopes to stage the 2026 World Cup and got a boost on Friday. — AP


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