Sepp Blatter blamed the United States for his eight-year ban handed down Monday by FIFA over ethics violations, a jab at a federal investigation responsible for several indictments of officials from soccer’s international governing body.
“If we had awarded the World Cup in 2022 to the USA, we would not be here,” Swiss-born Blatter said in Italian at a meandering, nearly one-hour news conference in Zurich.
Blatter was found guilty of violating FIFA’s ethics rules, allegations that centered around a $2million payment Blatter approved for Frenchman Michel Platini, a FIFA vice president and head of the Union of European Football Associations. Platini, once the front-runner to replace Blatter, also received an eight-year suspension. Both had already received provisional bans.
“I told him that FIFA could not pay him all the money now. We will pay you part of it later on,” Blatter said about the payment in 2011 that coincided with Platini’s decision not to challenge Blatter for president. “He asked for the payment later on. The debt existed.”
While Blatter has not been charged with a crime, many of his former FIFA colleagues are under federal indictment for alleged bribery in the bidding for World Cups.
On-point answers to reporters’ question were rare for Blatter at the news conference held at a Swiss building that once housed FIFA’s headquarters. Blatter, 79, has worked for the organization for four decades and served as its president since 1998.
“I regret I am a punching ball and for my organization I have served with my heart and conscience for 41 years,” Blatter said during his opening statement. “Specifically I regret for all the team members working in FIFA.”
Blatter said he should have quit after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and vowed to fight his ban in the courts.
“First of all, I was sad, but now I’m not sad,” Blatter said when asked for his reaction to the punishment. “I am combative.”
by A.J. Perez The article is reprinted here with permission of USA TODAY