SAO PAULO (AP) — FIFA President Sepp Blatter has hit out at critics who he says want to destroy football's governing body.
Blatter's comments to unspecified critics were made to Asian football officials on Monday following widespread allegations by The Sunday Times of corrupt payments by their former leader Mohamed bin Hammam.
"I don't know what the reasoning is behind this but we must maintain unity," Blatter told the gathering of Asian Football Confederation members. "It is the best way to say to all the destructors in the world, they want to destroy not the game, but they want to destroy the institution."
The British newspaper has reported that Bin Hammam paid millions of dollars to Asian and African officials, buying influence for Qatar's 2022 World Cup campaign and his own FIFA presidential challenge to Blatter in 2011.
Blatter also reminded Asian officials of "Qatargate," a series of reports by France Football magazine which aggressively questioned the integrity of FIFA's World Cup hosting vote.
The FIFA chief, who is widely expected to stand for re-election next year, turned the criticism into an appeal for him to remain in office.
"We are in the situation where we need leadership. I still have fire inside me," said the 78-year-old Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998.
Asian officials stood to acclaim Blatter's request for support, following an earlier ovation from African delegates.
Minutes earlier, he promised FIFA member countries bonus payments from 2014 World Cup profits. The tournament revenue will approach $4.5 billion for FIFA.
"I am sure you will be very happy," Blatter said.