Defiant Blatter denies charges, vows to fight

Zurich, Dec 21 (IANS) FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Monday claimed that he is the “punching bag”, insisting that he will look for the option of taking the eight-year ban before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as he denied the charge of $2 million “disloyal payment” to Europe body chief Michael Platini.

Earlier in the day World football governing body FIFA’s Ethics Committee here handed an eight-year suspension to both its president Sepp Blatter and European football chief Platini.

The two were found guilty of breaches surrounding a 1.3 million pounds ($2 million) “disloyal payment” made to Platini in 2011. Blatter and Platini had been suspended for 90 days in October.

Both have denied any wrongdoing repeatedly and claimed the payment was honouring an agreement made in 1998 for work carried out between 1998 and 2002 when Platini worked as a technical adviser for Blatter.

“You can identify me as an optimist. Together with a Swiss lawyer, we thought that we had convinced the panel about the situation with the payment. We thought that we were in a situation that was clear, with a clean sheet,” Blatter was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“We had a oral contract, a gentleman’s agreement. This was made in 1998 after the World Cup. What astonished me now when I talk about the decision today is that they deny the existence of such an agreement. This agreement was confirmed by two meetings. We have the proof that this agreement existed.

“Therefore the 2m Swiss francs paid to Platini went through the finance committee, the executive committee and was done in good terms. This is a donation. This is a gift. We avoided the issue of corruption. We did this because this arrangement was in the FIFA books.

“You can have oral contracts. Once again we go to the appeal committee. We go to Cas, the court of arbitration for sport. There might have been an administrative error, but this was nothing to do with the ethics. This cannot be proven. If it cannot be proven, then it cannot be guilty.

“I have never cheated with money. I was not given money for votes from Europe. I already had votes from Europe.”

Blatter, in charge of FIFA since 1998, also asserted that the committee does not hold the right to suspend the FIFA president, who he claimed can only be removed by the FIFA Congress.

Blatter had appeared before the ethics committee last Thursday, protesting his innocence in a letter to all 209 FIFA members.

“I will fight. I will fight for me and I will fight for FIFA. Suspended for what? I spoke with my lawyer this morning and we were not surprised that the notification was made first to the media. This committee has no right to go against the president of FIFA. The president can only be removed by the congress. Even suspended, I am still the president. I regret, but I am not ashamed,” the 79-year-old said.

Blatter had earlier announced that he will quit from his post next year with the presidential election scheduled to take place in February.

“I’m really sorry. I’m sorry that I am still somewhere a punching ball. As president of FIFA, I’m still this punching ball. I’m sorry for FIFA. I’m sorry for football. I’m also sorry about me and how I am treated in this world.”

UEFA also defended its French president Platini. “UEFA is extremely disappointed with this decision, which nevertheless is subject to appeal.

“Once again, UEFA supports Michel Platini’s right to a due process and the opportunity to clear his name.”

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