FIFA has emerged from one of the most troubled periods in its history and is now setting the highest standards for governance in world sport, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said today.
Making his presidential address to delegates from 208 of the world governing body's 209 members at the 63rd FIFA Congress, Blatter said the wide-ranging reform process started two years had changed the organisation but the modifications and fights against racism and the scourge of match-fixing went on.
"We have been through a difficult time, it has been a test for the world of football and for those who live in it," the 77-year-old Swiss said.
"As the captain, I am pleased to say we have weathered the storm.
"We have emerged from the troubled waters stronger and now we can look forwards to the future and waters as calm as the beautiful sea around us in Mauritius and I think the boat can now go slowly into the harbour."
Blatter, who initiated the reform process after the crises that enveloped the organisation in the wake of the joint bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and the scandal that surrounded the presidential election in 2011, said no matter what critics said, FIFA had reacted to those problems.
"Yes we had to change, we had to answer tough questions and we had to fight resistance even within our own community for the better of the game. It hurt but like a football team, we persevered and it paid dividends," he added.
"These sweeping and hard-hitting reforms will change our orgnisation for the better and places FIFA at the forefront of governance standards in the world of sport.
"There are those who have openly criticised what we are doing as if it would have been better to do nothing and leave things as they were. And there are those who say we have not gone far enough - that we have evaded the difficult decisions and buried our heads in the sand.
"There are a few finally, who criticise us no matter what we are doing. But we needed to change, to reinforce our defences and protect the future of the game.
"It would be a lie to say it was easy... it was not easy. But now we have the chance to make history by passing these reforms."
The latest criticisms surrounding the reforms centre on the dropping of a proposal to introduce age and mandate limits for senior officials from the Congress agenda and that some other key changes had yet to be implemented.
He also used his speech to take a thinly veiled sideswipe at UEFA, at loggerheads with Blatter over the age limit reforms, tolling Congress: "FIFA is based on solidarity, democracy and here at this Congress, it is one nation one vote as it should be in a democracy.
"But reforming a great organisation is not about one person or interest group dictating, but about 209 nations moving forward as one in harmony."
Blatter also spoke of the continuing fight against racism and match-fixing which continues to blight the sport.
"There have been some despicable offences this year that have cast a long shadow over football and the rest of society. I am speaking about the politics of hate, racism," he said.
"There is no place in football for racism and neither is there any place for match-fixing or manipulation.
"We have to be tough and we have to make it plain to the racists that their time is up, it is finished.
"And there is no greater threat to our game than match-fixing - that comes from within football. We need the help of public authorities and the police everywhere to drive it from our game."
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