ZURICH — In a rare interview with a free Swiss daily newspaper during his re-election campaign, FIFA President Sepp Blatter claims he has tried to "tame the monster" of soccer's success during his 17-year reign.
Blatter told Tuesday's edition of free Swiss daily 20 Minutes that his presidency benefited from a boom in soccer's finances and development fueled by television rights deals.
Blatter said predecessor Joao Havelange once told him: "Sepp, you created a monster."
In reply, Blatter said he told Havelange: "Yes, but I try to tame the monster."
Blatter cited a German magazine's estimate that 1.6 billion people are linked to playing, organizing and following soccer.
The power of the sport is "wonderful even if at the same time it's scary," said the FIFA president, who has seen the governing body's income top $2 billion for the first time in 2014.
The daily newspaper reports that questions about the May 29 election were not allowed for its interview, tied to a FIFA-promoted youth tournament which kicks off Wednesday in Zurich.
"I am the president and not a candidate," said Blatter, who is a candidate. "This is why I don't want to speak about this vote."
The 79-year-old Swiss is expected to win again. He currently has three opponents — Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Luis Figo of Portugal and Michael van Praag of the Netherlands — though at least one is expected to stand aside before the ballot.
Blatter distanced himself from the disgraced Havelange when asked by 20 Minutes why he had not prepared a successor, as the Brazilian did for him before his first victory in 1998.
Havelange "never trained a successor," said Blatter, adding that "the successor built himself."
Now 99, Havelange led FIFA for 24 years before becoming honorary president. He resigned that title in 2013 ahead of a FIFA ethics committee's judgment on him receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks from World Cup marketing contracts.
Blatter said Tuesday that, if elected for a fifth time on May 29, he would have "four years to prepare the future."
Asked if FIFA would remain in Zurich beyond his reign, Blatter said no one wanted the governing body to leave.
"Believe me, the delegates are very gladly come to Switzerland," Blatter said. "Switzerland is a paradise."