GENEVA, SWITZERLAND —
The embattled president of world football's governing body FIFA , Sepp Blatter, is pledging to fight an eight-year ban from all football-related activities imposed by the organization’s ethics committee. The three-man FIFA panel applied a similar ban on the Head of European Soccer, Michel Platini.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was in a combative mood when he faced journalists shortly after he received word of his suspension by the ethics committee.
“I am sorry that I am, as president of FIFA, this punching ball and I am sorry for football … I regret that I am this punching ball there. I regret for my organization that I have served with heart and conscience during 41 years, but specifically I regret for all the members, the team members working in FIFA,” he said.
FIFA’s ethics committee found Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini guilty of ethics code breaches regarding an unauthorized payment of $2 million by the president of FIFA to Platini. Swiss prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into these allegedly illegal payments.
Both men deny wrongdoing. Blatter said he thought he had convinced the panel of the tribunal that the FIFA payment to Platini was legitimate. He said the tribunal has accused him and Platini of lying, but it has proven nothing.
“But something what is not true cannot be proven, and if it cannot be proven, it cannot be guilty ... I am now suspended eight years, suspended eight years. But, I will fight. I will fight for me and I will fight for FIFA,” he said.
Blatter said he would take his case to the FIFA appeals committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Blatter has been FIFA president since 1998. He is supposed to step down on February 26. If the eight-year suspension holds, Blatter notes he will not even be allowed to attend the Congress.
Platini has been widely tipped as the new FIFA chief. But this long-held ambition is likely to be derailed if his suspension is not lifted and he is not cleared of all charges.
FIFA has been mired in scandal since May when 14 FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich and charged in the United States with nearly 50 counts of corruption, including racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering.