Blatter says he will resign as FIFA president 

ZURICH -- The end for Sepp Blatter came suddenly, just days after he had seemingly solidified his hold on FIFA.

The 79-year-old leader of the world's most popular sport defied global animosity last week to win four more years in office. But his re-election only increased the pressure from colleagues, sponsors, athletes and fans for Blatter to step down as FIFA's president.

At a hastily arranged news conference Tuesday, Blatter announced he would leave office within months and called for a fresh election to appoint a successor.

"I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football," said Blatter, who could still be a target of U.S. investigators delving into decades of corruption and bribery accusations against FIFA officials.

After generations under Blatter and his mentor, Joao Havelange, the announcement left FIFA without a leader and without a clear course forward. It sets off a global power struggle for control of the organization as a criminal investigation intensifies.

A federal indictment last week detailed apparent bribes from a FIFA account totaling $10 million to senior officials for voting South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host. Late Monday, reports laid a clearer trail of complicity to the door of FIFA headquarters, if not Blatter himself. The South African angle threatens to tarnish memories of a bid campaign that brought Nelson Mandela to Zurich for the winning vote in 2004. At risk also is the legacy of a World Cup that was an organizational triumph for FIFA and South Africa, and bolstered Blatter's reputation as a friend of Africa whose loyalty stood firm in Friday's election.

Even before the election, Blatter's ability to travel to the U.S., or other countries where a Swiss national risked arrest and extradition, had become a distracting story.

"This mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football," Blatter said. "I will continue to exercise my function (until the new election)." Elections are expected to take place sometime between December and March. — AP

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