It was the moment the world thought would never come — Sepp Blatter has announced he is resigning as FIFA president.
The most powerful man in soccer said on Tuesday afternoon he would step down from the post he has held for 17 years, amid the corruption scandal that has engulfed the sport's global governing body.
Blatter has doggedly held on to his post through years of FIFA corruption allegations, always insisting that he could not be held responsible for the actions of individual bad apples and that he was the man to clean up the organization.
But following the arrest of a string of FIFA's top officials last week, accused by the US Department of Justice of money laundering and racketeering on a massive scale over three decades, Blatter has apparently changed his mind.
"While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football — the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA," Blatter said in a statement. "Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate."
The 79-year-old, who first joined FIFA as a technical director in 1975 before becoming General Secretary then CEO, said he would continue to exercise his functions until an extraordinary congress to elect a new president was held, which he would urge FIFA's executive committee to hold "at the earliest opportunity."
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, who lost to Blatter in Friday's FIFA presidential ballot, will reportedly stand in the next election.
On Tuesday the corruption allegations had moved within touching distance of Blatter, as it was reported that his right-hand man at FIFA Jerome Valcke — FIFA's secretary general — had sent $10 million of bribe funds cited in a US indictment.
FIFA issued a statement strongly denying the claims on Wednesday morning, but later a letter emerged apparently linking him to the payment. The letter, seen by the Press Association's chief sports correspondent, appears to be from the president of the South African soccer association to Valcke, requesting the money in 2008.