FIFA chief Blatter says sorry to Italy

Updated: 2007-01-10 08:46

FIFA chief Sepp Blatter Monday apologized to Italy for not presenting them the 2006 World Cup trophy.

Speaking at an Azzurri reunion celebration, Blatter admitted he had been wrong not to come down from the stands and hand over the trophy after Italy's victory over France, according to the local media reports.

"History will say that it was a mistake...and it was in fact a mistake," Blatter said, in his first explicit public apology.

Blatter reiterated his claim that a decision was made before the match not to expose FIFA's top dignitary to the possibility of jeers from the predominantly German crowd.

Blatter's no-show has been an issue since the World Cup, and there have been conflicting reports about whether he was on the presentation roster or not.

Many commentators took his decision as a sign he did not think they were worthy winners - or possibly as confirmation of FIFA's distaste for Italy's Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.

Blatter rekindled the rumors on a visit to Australia in December when he said the Socceroos - defeated by Italy in the quarter-finals after a dodgy penalty decision - had been good enough to go all the way.

Blatter later clarified his remarks, saying he had not meant to imply Italy had not deserved their win.

At the Rome reunion, Blatter emphasized that "Italy deserved to win the World Cup".

"They showed great soccer ability, great effort".

"I'm not against Italy, quite the contrary in fact. I told the players that.

"Italian soccer was in great difficulty at that time and the Azzurri showed that the players had nothing to do with that affair".

"They reminded all the world, with their reaction, that soccer's true protagonists are the players, not the officials".

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