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Blatter calls for unity at FIFA congress amid chaos

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President Sepp Blatter has opened FIFA’s annual congress in Swiss city of Zurich with a call for unity after twin criminal investigations rocked world football’s governing body this week.

Blatter, who is widely tipped to be voted in for a fifth term as president later on Friday, told congress attendees that he was “appealing to unity and team spirit so we can move forward together”.

“It may not always be easy but we are here together today to tackle the problems that have been created. We are here to solve them.”

“I think the important point today is to move ahead and the important point is transparency,” Blatter said.

“The important point is where does FIFA stand in the world. It is the fight against corruption, against match fixing, racism and discrimination which we still have and this hurts.

“Lets show to the world we are able to run our institution which is FIFA we can do it together.”

There was panic during the lunch break when Zurich police moved into the hall following a reported bomb threat.

However, FIFA secretary-general confirmed that the premises were searched and cleared by the authorities.

Blatter still favourite

Blatter’s opening address to the congress on Friday was briefly interrupted by a female protester waving a Palestine flag and shouting at Blatter before being removed.

Blatter, who has been heavily criticised for not doing enough to combat corruption in FIFA, is being challenged by Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein for the most powerful job in soccer on Friday.

A number of delegates have told Al Jazeera, however, that they expect Blatter to easily win his job back – despite the new corruption inquiries.

Swiss authorities said on Wednesday they had launched a criminal investigation into the bidding contest for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups – set to be held in Russia and Qatar.

Almost simultaneously, the US Department of Justice indicted nine FIFA officials and five associated officials on corruption charges, with Swiss authorities arresting seven of the officials in Zurich where FIFA is holding its congress.

FIFA’s 209 members will vote in Friday’s elections, with a two-thirds majority needed to win on the first ballot. If that does not happen, then a straight majority is required to win a second ballot. Al Jazeera

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