KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Sepp Blatter, in his most remarkable interview yet during the recent chaotic months, has blamed Michel Platini for the current FIFA crisis by switching his 2022 World Cup vote from the United States to Qatar.
Blatter, 79-year-old president of world governing body FIFA since 1998, is currently suspended on order of the ethics committee pending an investigation into allegations of financial misconduct.
This has not stopped him expressing his opinions about issues in the world game. The latest interview was undertaken with TASS, the official news agency from Russia which will host the next World Cup finals in less than three years’ time.
Blatter believed he was turned into a target for attack because “for three years already, and specifically after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, [European federation] UEFA did not want me as the president. It was a conducted attack on the FIFA president.
“The other confederations were with me. Only UEFA tried to firce me out. They did not succeed. Even with this tsunami [in May] I was re-elected as president. And who else has been involved in this attack on the FIFA president? Politicians. The European Union.
“The European Union’s parliament has taken resolutions, first that ‘Blatter shall not be elected’ – that is political interference in sport – and, after my re-election, that ‘Blatter should resign.’ Twice they did it: the European Union Parliament.”
Looking back Blatter conceded he had been wrong not to stand down as FIFA president after the 2014 World Cup. He believed that UEFA had long been infected by an “anti-FIFA virus.” He had wanted to stay on to protect the other confederations.
But he had no hesitation in blaming Platini for launching an initial attack on him which subsequently which escalated.
“At the beginning,” said Blatter, “it was only a personal attack. It was Platini against me. But then it became political. It was no longer Platini against me but also those who lost the World Cup [vote].
“England lost the World Cup against Russia – and the United States lost the World Cup against Qatar . . . the FIFA World Cup or the FIFA president is a ball in the big political power game.”
However the present crisis did not concern FIFA as an organisation and its work but ‘only’ its government. Blatter said: “It must be in crisis if you kill the same day the president, the secretary general and the vice president of the biggest confederation.”
Blatter was referring to the provisional suspensions by the ethics committee on him, on Platini and on secretary-general Jerome Valcke (the latter over separate financial conduct issues).
This upset Blatter; the thought that he had enabled the creation of the ethics committee and it had come back to bite him.
He said: “It’s total nonsense. This is not justice. I put these people into the office, where they are now in the ethics committee and they don’t even have the courage to listen to the secretary-general, Platini or me.
“The principles of the human rights say that before you can be suspended or excluded from somewhere you have the right to answer and they have denied this. They made a summary investigation and three days later I was suspended.
“I think it was the pressure of the media. It was the pressure to get rid of the FIFA president. Unfortunately, Platini was in the same boat. And they wanted to say: ‘We, the ethics Committee, are not at the service of the president, we are totally independent.’ This is wrong. They can be independent but they don’t need to be against me.”
Blatter said his lawyers had appealed to the FIFA appeals committee and to the ethics committee to reconsider its decision.
Turning to the issue of reforms, Blatter said that a reorganisation of the numbers of exco delegates based on confederations’ size was essential. He was against an age limit and opposed to a term limit only for the president – “it must be for everybody in the executive committee.”
Blatter repeated his earlier statement about the infamous verbal contract under which the alleged ‘disloyal payment’ of SFr2m was made to Michel Platini. The financial agreement had been verbal and Platini only came forward eight years later to demand the final payment due.
Platini, according to Blatter, was also the man to blame for the 2018-2022 World Cup scandal.
Blatter said: “It was agreed that we go to Russia because it’s never been in Russia, eastern Europe, and for 2022 we go back to America – and so we would have the World Cup in the two biggest political powers.
“Everything was good until the moment when [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy had a meeting with the crown prince of Qatar, who is now the ruler of Qatar [Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani].
“At a lunch afterwards with Mr Platini he said it would be good to go to Qatar. And this has changed everything. There was an election by secret ballot. Four votes from Europe went away from the US and so the result was 14 to eight.
“If you change the four votes, it would have been 12 to 10 for the US. If the USA had been awarded the World Cup, we would . . . not be speaking about any problems at FIFA.”