Vienna: FIFA president Sepp Blatter received muted applause from UEFA delegates after he gave a low-key speech at the opening of their congress on Tuesday which included a less-than-subtle call for unity ahead of May`s FIFA presidential elections.
Most European delegates, including president Michel Platini, are against Blatter winning a fifth term of office as the head of world soccer`s governing body, openly backing the men standing against him.
The 79-year-old Swiss declined an invitation from UEFA to address delegates as a presidential candidate along with his challengers, Jordanian Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, Dutchman Michael van Praag and Luis Figo of Portugal who were present in the auditorium when he spoke.
Instead Blatter addressed delegates in his role as FIFA president, calling on them to show unity and solidarity, which he claimed were the foundation stones of soccer`s popularity around the world.
He also referred to a recent call from the president of Ukraine for countries to boycott the World Cup in Russia in 2018 because of the ongoing conflict between the two nations, saying boycotts never achieved anything and sport should lead by example and retain its autonomy in a world of conflict.
"Football is a symbol of unity. I am convinced that more than ever the hope of mankind rests not only on the slogans of FIFA but also on peace and solidarity," he said.
"Maybe we cannot change the world but at least we can help change the world and help in certain conflict situations.
"I appeal to UEFA, but not only to UEFA but all the confederations, to help bring this unity and solidarity together to help build our respective organisations."
"Speaking of Russia, football has to stay united.
"In the past Boycotts have never brought any results.
"We have to pay attention to our statutes, and the Olympic charter, and even in the resolutions of the United Nations, it is written: the autonomy of sport must be guaranteed.
"UEFA has the best football and the best footballers, they are the example. We ask Europe to be the promoter of the popularity of our game. Football can only be strong if the governing bodies are strong and united. It is solidarity and unity.
"That is the message today and for tomorrow, and the message for the future, for the world and for UEFA."