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FIFA president Sepp Blatter faces toughest crowd of election campaign at UEFA meeting

03/23/2015 10:10 EDT | Updated 05/23/2015 05:59 EDT
VIENNA - FIFA President Sepp Blatter faces his toughest audience this week in his campaign to be re-elected.

Blatter arrives Monday for the annual congress of UEFA, whose leaders are supporting all three of his election opponents: Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, Luis Figo and Michael van Praag.

The 79-year-old Blatter was stung when he last came up against UEFA at pre-World Cup meeting in June in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Then, Blatter described the verbal dressing down he got as "the most disrespectful thing I have experienced in my entire life."

UEFA has its own election business Tuesday. The 54 member federations will re-elect their own president, Michel Platini, unopposed.

Still, the FIFA contest has more potential for drama — despite Blatter's current strategy of evasion. He refuses to debate in public or detail his plans for a fifth presidential term he is expected to win on May 29.

"I am not campaigning," Blatter said at FIFA last Friday. "I am now 40 years in FIFA, and I am 17 years as president of FIFA. This is my manifesto."

Blatter has declined UEFA offers to take part in an election event Tuesday with his three rivals, who should make campaign speeches after the formal congress closes.

"He made it already clear he is not campaigning because he doesn't need to," UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said Monday, adding European officials would decide for themselves "whether they think it is a lack of respect or not."

UEFA used that meeting in Brazil to let senior officials tell the FIFA president he had lost credibility at the top of an organization often linked to corruption.

Van Praag led that attack which showed Blatter was not forgiven for promising the 2011 UEFA Congress in Paris he would step down in 2015.

Blatter later said he had the right to change his mind and has broad support among FIFA's 209 voting federations to extend his 17-year reign.

Protocol demands Blatter will address the UEFA meeting early on Tuesday's agenda.

"He will get a very nice reception and that is how we should receive him," Van Praag said Monday. "We are very polite people. Until May, he is our president."

Also Tuesday, UEFA should put pressure on Blatter by sending two noted critics as delegates to the FIFA executive committee. UEFA has eight of the 25 elected seats on the committee.

German federation president Wolfgang Niersbach is unopposed for a four-year mandate on the executive committee, and former Manchester United CEO David Gill is favoured to win an election for the FIFA vice presidency reserved for the British nations. Gill faces Wales federation leader Trefor Lloyd Hughes.

FIFA vice-president Angel Maria Villar of Spain is unopposed to retain his seat despite being under investigation by the FIFA ethics committee. He faces sanctions for his conduct in the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests, and subsequent probe by FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia, who later resigned.

UEFA federations will also elect seven members of their own 16-strong executive committee. Twelve candidates are standing.

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