Germans cheer Blatter exit, warn against wasting reform chances

  • World
  • Wednesday, 03 Jun 2015

FIFA president Sepp Blatter (R) hands over a copy of the World Cup to Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani after the announcement that Qatar is going to be host nation for the FIFA World Cup 2022, in Zurich December 2, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann (SWITZERLAND - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) - RTXVBFL

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel, who celebrated Germany's fourth World Cup win with the players in Brazil last year, welcomed the departure of FIFA President Sepp Blatter as an opportunity to boost standards within football's world governing body.

Her sport minister Thomas de Maiziere went further, saying Blatter's resignation under pressure will be worthless if FIFA fails to enact meaningful reforms and put an end to the cronyism that has tarnished the game.

Germany's Football Association (FA), with 6.8 million members the largest in the world, had campaigned against Blatter but its president Wolfgang Niersbach was opposed to more radical ideas, such as the England's FA, to boycott FIFA World Cups.

"I think it'll now be easier for FIFA's work to be done more transparently," Merkel, a regular at important Germany matches, told a news conference when asked about Blatter.

"It's important news for billions of those who like football -- and I'm one of those fans -- and can say the organisation that represents world football works according to standards that we'd all wish for."

Blatter's resignation dominated news broadcasts and front pages across Germany, a country with a visceral attachment to the game ever since West Germany won the 1954 World Cup that helped restore national pride from the shame of World War Two.

Mass circulation Bild captured the mood with its three-inch high front page headline: "Blatter goes away, finally resigns."

De Maiziere, who serves as both interior and sports minister, said FIFA still had a lot of work to do. He said he believed "external pressure" had forced Blatter to quit on Monday just days after he was re-elected to a fifth term.

"Blatter's retreat will be worthless if the chance presented now isn't used to break up rigid structures, introduce greater transparency and put an end to cronyism," de Maiziere said.

"What is now urgently needed is a thorough investigation and that will be a truly difficult process for FIFA," he added.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas called Blatter's resignation a victory for football: "Football 1, Blatter 0" he wrote in a twitter message. He added that FIFA might have to review awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar if a Swiss investigation showed that bribes had been paid.

"The decisive factor for winning the right to host a World Cup cannot be who paid the largest bribe," Maas told Bild daily.

Niersbach, seen as one of many candidates to follow Blatter, said the resignation was overdue.

"We need integrity and credibility in football. That's been missing for a long time," he said. "Blatter's resignation doesn't solve all the problems, but with Sepp Blatter the problems could hardly have been solved."

(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; additional reporting by Paul Carrel, Madeline Chambers and Gabi-Sajonz Grimm; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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