(CN) – FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced Tuesday that he is resigning from soccer’s governing body amid a growing corruption scandal, and asked the organization’s board to set elections “as soon as possible” to choose his successor.
“I will organize an extraordinary congress for a replacement for me as president,” he said through an interpreter during a hastily called news conference on Tuesday.
“I will not stand,” he continued. “I am now free from the constraints of an election. I will be in a position to focus on profound reforms. For many years we have called for reforms. But these are not sufficient.”
Blatter, 79, was re-elected to a fifth term as the organization’s president on Friday, just days after seven soccer officials were arrested on bribery charges at a luxury hotel in Zurich ahead of the FIFA congress.
His resignation comes a day after prosecutors in the United States said they believe Blatter’s top lieutenant at FIFA, Jerome Valcke, made $10 million in bank transactions in 2008 that are linked to the scandal.
Despite the revelation, prosecutors said Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, is not currently considered a co-conspirator in the bribery scandal and has not been charged with any wrong-doing.
Valcke issued a statement in which he said he did not authorize the wire transfers.
Although he initially expressed confidence that he would survive the ongoing scandal, he said during a brief news conference Tuesday that this view “does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football.”
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn last week brought charges against a total of 14 individuals, including soccer officials and marketing executives. They have indicated other arrests may be forthcoming.
During his news conference, Blatter said he made his decision to resign after reflecting on his presidency and the past 40 years of his life.
“These years were closely related to FIFA and the wonderful sport of football,” he said. “I appreciate and love FIFA more than anything else.”
“I only want to do the best for FIFA and my institution. I decided to stand again as the best option for football. The elections are closed but the challenges we face haven’t come to an end,” he said.
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