Sepp Blatter shrugs-off UEFA's challenge to his leadership as 'lacking courage'

Image: Sepp Blatter has been FIFA president for almost 17 years

Sepp Blatter has told UEFA “they do not have the courage” to sufficiently challenge his leadership at the upcoming FIFA presidential election and has urged them to back his cause instead.

The 78-year-old believes the majority of criticism aimed at his leadership has come from Europe ahead of a 2015 election that has two confirmed challengers; Jerome Champagne and FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin al Hussein.

Two unlikely candidates in former Tottenham winger David Ginola and influential player agent Mino Raiola have also announced their intentions to run against Blatter this year, and both have heavily criticised the current FIFA regime.

Raiola, whose players include Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli, compared Blatter’s FIFA to that of a dictatorship and told Sky Sports News HQ on Friday that it was time for change.

But Blatter told CNN on Sunday: "All this opposition is coming now. It's unfortunate - but it's true – to say that it's coming from UEFA.

“All those who want to get rid of me should come but they don't have the courage to come. So let me go on – be respectful.

“Football is a team sport. Let's go together with the team. I invite the leaders of UEFA that are so bitterly attacking me: Join! Join! Football is a unity.”

Blatter, elected for the first time in 1998 and re-elected in three successive elections since, unopposed in 2011, has often spoken of his “mission” to reform football.

But FIFA has suffered increasing criticism since Russia and Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in 2010, with an investigation into corruption within those countries' bids recently stalled from publication.

Blatter said: “I have not finished my mission because it's a mission to be in football. We have started in 2011 with the reform process. The reform process is not over.

"I am definitely not worried about the election. It is impossible to make everybody happy – only positive press would not be a good thing.

“I like criticism as long as it is fair criticism."

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