Blatter chastises FIFA ethics committee for banning him
GENEVA (AP) Taking a dictatorial approach to his role as FIFA president, Sepp Blatter lashed out at the ethics committee for being ''against me'' and criticized his 90-day ban as being ''total nonsense.''
Blatter, who was suspended along with Michel Platini, made the comments during a wide-ranging and stinging interview published Wednesday by Russian state news agency Tass.
''And they wanted to say, `We, ethics committee, we are not at the service of the president, we are totally independent.' This is wrong,'' Blatter said in the interview. ''They can be independent but they don't need to be against me.''
The longtime FIFA president also railed against several perceived enemies, including Platini, American authorities, the European Union and media in England and his native Switzerland. He also seemed frustrated at losing control of decision-making power at soccer's scandal-hit governing body.
''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 had the courage to listen to the secretary general, Platini or me,'' Blatter said, also referring to the suspended Jerome Valcke.
The interview gave the clearest insight yet on his views since being suspended on Oct. 8 after a Swiss criminal investigation over a $2 million payment between Blatter and Platini. It also highlighted his feud with Platini, whose chances of succeeding Blatter in the Feb. 26 emergency election have been damaged by his suspension.
Both deny wrongdoing and have appealed against their sanctions, but both face longer bans when the full ethics hearing is completed.
''Yeah, he started it, but then it became politics,'' Blatter said of the former France captain, dating their falling out to 2008. ''And when it is in politics, it is not any longer Platini against me.''
In another part of the interview, Blatter cited the World Cup hosting votes in 2010 as a turning point which unleashed criticism and scrutiny on FIFA, mainly because the United States didn't win. Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament.
''(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,'' Blatter said, referring to a time about a month before the official vote.
''And everything was good until the moment when (then French President Nicolas) Sarkozy came in a meeting with the crown prince of Qatar, who is now the ruler of Qatar. And at a lunch afterward with Mr. Platini, he said it would be good to go to Qatar.''
After that meeting in Paris, Blatter said Platini and three other European members of the FIFA executive committee switched sides to give Qatar a 14-8 win over the Americans.
Years later, in May 2015, Swiss authorities raided a luxury FIFA hotel in Zurich after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 people on corruption charges. Less than a week later, and four days after being re-elected to a fifth term, Blatter said he would step down as president.
With Platini now likely to be excluded from the presidential election because of the criminal investigation and the ban, Blatter also blasted the Frenchman's right-hand man, Gianni Infantino.
The UEFA general secretary has also entered the race to be replace Blatter.
''Most of the national associations don't like Infantino,'' Blatter said. ''There are people in Europe, especially in the northern parts, who say that if they bring Infantino, that's the end of Europe.''
Russia, however, remains a strong ally for Blatter.
''You know what I like in Russia also is that in difficult situations I still have the full support of President Putin. This is good,'' Blatter said, putting himself on a par with Putin by calling the Russian president and himself by their patronymic names, conveniently both with the same name as their fathers.
''Vladimir Vladimirovich is a good friend of Joseph Josephovich.''
This story has been corrected to show that Swiss authorities raided the FIFA hotel, not the U.S. Department of State, and Blatter decided to step down four days after re-election, not two.