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GENEVA - FIFA president Sepp Blatter renewed his campaign Wednesday to stop European soccer clubs from hoarding most of the world's best players.
"It cannot be that only one continent will be the focus of all football," Blatter said in a conference call with reporters.
He said European clubs were "drying out" soccer in Africa by signing the best young players and preventing professional leagues from developing.
Blatter was outlining his plans for a "six plus five" rule, which would force clubs by 2012 to field at least six homegrown players in their starting lineups and limit the number of foreigners to five.
The FIFA president believes the rule will reverse the trend among some of Europe's elite clubs - including Arsenal, Chelsea and Inter Milan - to field teams entirely made up of foreign players.
Blatter has railed against the practice in the past, but no international rules are currently in place to prevent teams from ignoring players in their own countries.
"If there is a FIFA regulation that there shall be this six-plus-five system, then players in Africa and Asia and especially South America will stay home," Blatter said. "It will be good for the development of football."
He said soccer federations outside Europe supported his plan "because the other continents are the suppliers of all the players in Europe."
"We are now stimulating new leagues where players can earn their living decently," he said. "At the same time we are fighting, let us say, the drying out of local leagues in Africa."
Blatter said African soccer federations were in favour of his plan when it was discussed at a January meeting in Ghana, even though it could mean that some African players would lose their positions with top clubs.
Blatter also believes the rule can be good for soccer in Europe. He wants it to help restore the traditional identity of clubs and national leagues, and strengthen national teams by offering more opportunities to homegrown players.
Blatter argued that the top European leagues suffer from being dominated by the richest clubs, who buy the best foreign players and then increase their wealth in the lucrative Champions League.
"Shall we let the rich become richer and just stay there and say nothing?" he said.
While calling the Champions League "the best in the world", he said 80 per cent of the income goes directly to the 32 clubs taking part.
"This season, there were four English teams in the last eight, three in the semifinals and two in the final," he said. "In the last years the Champions League was very successful in finances but it has also favoured national inequality. That's why, being in charge of football, I have to bring this item to the attention of the FIFA Congress."
But Blatter is not supported by European soccer's governing body UEFA and European Union lawmakers, who say it would be illegal to prevent the free movement of players.
UEFA favours a rule on "locally trained" players which would set a quota of players, of any nationality, on the roster who have been with the club for at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21.
"I appeal here also to Europe, not only to European football but the European Union, to look also for this solidarity (with world soccer)," Blatter said. "It is not enough to put money in development clubs all around the world but you should also maintain in the sporting spirit, the spirit of fair play."
The rule will be discussed at the FIFA Congress from May 29-30 in Sydney, Australia.
Blatter will ask the 208 national federations for a mandate to approach the EU for support, and has arranged to meet UEFA President Michel Platini before July 1 when France takes up the presidency of the EU Council.