Fifa president Sepp Blatter showed no signs of bowing to international pressure to resign as he appeared for the first time since senior football officials were arrested over “rampant” corruption charges.
Following mounting calls for him to step aside following the scandal, he insisted he “cannot monitor everyone all of the time”.
Speaking on stage at the opening ceremony of Fifa’s annual congress meeting in Zurich, he said: “I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the action and reputation for the global football community, whether it is a decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal.
“I cannot monitor everyone all of the time - if people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.”
“But it must fall to me to bear responsibility for the reputation and well-being of our organisation and to find a way forward to fix things.
“I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and the integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football.
“I must stress that those who are corrupt in football are in the minority, like in society, but like in society they must be caught and held responsible for their actions.”
His voice shook as he described the events of the last two days as an “unprecedented and difficult time for Fifa” and insisted corruption would be rooted out from “top to bottom”.
“There can be no place for corruption of any kind. The next few months will not be easy for Fifa, I’m sure more bad news may follow, but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organisaiton.
“Let this be the turning point, more needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically and everywhere, also outside of the field of play, where there is no referee, no boundaries and no time limit.”
Earlier, Mr Blatter called together leaders of Fifa’s six regions as world football is rocked by an American federal racketeering case.
Fifa spokeswoman Delia Fischer said in a statement: “There was a meeting today with the president with the representatives from the confederations to discuss the current situation.”
Mr Blatter is resisting calls from European football body Uefa to postpone tomorrow’s Fifa presidential election by six months.
Uefa has called the dual American and Swiss federal probes a “disaster for Fifa”, and is supporting Mr Blatter’s election opponent, Fifa vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
Mr Blatter has continued to avoid appearing in public since Swiss federal agencies raided Fifa headquarters and a luxury Zurich hotel early yesterday.
He missed giving a scheduled speech to open a session of Fifa’s medical conference in a Zurich hotel - his third skipped public appearance within 24 hours.
Fifa chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak told delegates that Mr Blatter has to “manage the situation”.
Two Fifa vice presidents were among seven men arrested at the request of the US Department of Justice. In a separate investigation, Swiss federal agencies seized evidence at Fifa headquarters for a probe of the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.
Mr Blatter skipped two meetings of continental football organisations from Africa and South America yesterday.
He typically would attend those ahead of tomorrow’s annual congress of Fifa’s 209 member federations.
Late yesterday, Fifa issued a statement on behalf of Mr Blatter where the president insisted he was determined to root out misconduct.
The Fifa president would also usually follow protocol and attend yesterday’s Uefa meeting. He is scheduled to appear later in the day.
Mr Blatter is also expected to address member federations - the Fifa election voters - at the opening ceremony of the congress at 5pm local time.
UK Culture, Media and Sport Secretary John Whittingdale said Mr Blatter must resign over the corruption allegations, saying that “change in the leadership of Fifa is very badly needed”.
Mr Whittingdale said major sponsors should follow Visa and review their links with Fifa in the wake of corruption charges against senior Fifa officials.
“This is merely the latest sorry episode which suggests that Fifa is a deeply flawed and corrupt organisation,” Mr Whittingdale told the House of Commons.
He added he was sure British fraud authorities would investigate whether any of the corruption took place on UK soil.