Blatter critical of Johansson ahead of election

January 11, 2007

PARIS, Jan 11 (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter has criticised his UEFA counterpart Lennart Johansson, saying the Swede should have declared earlier that he would run for another term as the head of European soccer's governing body.

'He should have laid his cards on the table,' Blatter told Thursday's edition of the Swiss daily Le Matin. 'It is a matter of respect. This is what Mr Johansson should have done.'

Blatter however declared his intention to run in the race for the FIFA presidency nine years ago at a far later stage than Johansson has done now.

In 1998 when the presidency of FIFA fell vacant after Joao Havelange announced his retirement, Johansson declared his intention to stand as a candidate on January 17 of that year. The election date had been set for June 8.

Blatter, then FIFA's general secretary, did not declare his campaign until March 30 - over 10 weeks later. Blatter duly won a comprehensive victory when the vote was taken at the FIFA Congress in Paris in June just before the start of the World Cup finals.

As far as this month's UEFA presidency vote is concerned, Johansson had repeatedly said he would quit at the end of his term before changing his mind and officially announced his intention to run on July 11 last year.

Platini, who signalled his intention to stand 18 months previously, officially announced his candidature on July 24 last year, 13 days after Johansson.

Asked if he was backing Johansson or his rival, French soccer great Michel Platini, in the race for the UEFA presidency, Blatter said: 'It is not my role. Of course, there are sympathies. Let's say that I feel more like a footballer than like an executive.'

The election will take place on Jan. 26 at the UEFA congress in Duesseldorf.