GABORONE, Botswana (AP) — Match-fixing affects only a tiny percentage of football games across the world and the sport is "so big, we will overcome," FIFA President Sepp Blatter said on Saturday, playing down the European Union police agency's damaging report into corruption.
Speaking in Botswana after Europol said Monday that nearly 700 recent games have or may have been fixed, the head of world football insisted more than a million matches a year were clean.
"Football is so big, we will overcome," Blatter said in Gaborone. "It (match-fixing) is a small percentage. Football will not die."
Blatter is on a four-country tour of Africa ahead of Sunday's African Cup of Nations final at Soccer City in Johannesburg between Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
But with the world game facing another damaging period of introspection after Europol reported 680 matches were under suspicion worldwide from the last 18 months — including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and two Champions League games — the FIFA head played down the extent of corruption on visits to Mauritania, Guinea and Botswana.
Blatter said in Mauritania that most cases of alleged match-fixing that Europol raised had already been dealt with or were being dealt with.
"Most of the matches which they (Europol) put in this tray, 600 or 800, have already been analyzed, dealt with and even were at court," Blatter told reporters.
Blatter said FIFA was fighting the "pure delinquency" of match-fixing for illegal betting scams.
"We're fighting against that," he said in French. "Because if the matches are fixed there's no more interest in going to watch football."
In Africa, Zimbabwe banned players and officials for life and the former chief executive of the national federation is facing criminal charges for corruption after an investigation uncovered the national team had thrown games on tours to Asia.
South Africa has conceded it will have to investigate any possible links with match-fixing gangs after "compelling evidence" that at least one of the country's World Cup warm-up games from 2010 was fixed.
A high-profile friendly between Nigeria and Argentina is also believed to be under suspicion for spot-fixing.
On Saturday, Blatter said that racism was a bigger problem for the world game than fixing and FIFA was examining ways of introducing more serious punishments for teams if their fans or players were guilty of racism.
"We can also explore deducting points," he said. "If it is a knockout competition, it will mean that we must kick out the team."
Associated Press writers Ahmed Mohamed in Nouakchott, Mauritania and Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea, contributed to this report.