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Sepp Blatter launches angry attack on ‘envious and jealous’ Michel Platini

Sepp Blatter has launched a remarkable attack on the “envy and jealousy” ofMichel Platini – blaming what he called an organised conspiracy of the Uefa president, the European Union and the media for bringing him down.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Russian news agency TASS, Blatter spoke in detail about the £1.3m contract at the centre of Fifa’s decision to suspend him and Platini, and set out his position on the turmoil at Fifa – suggesting he is the victim of an artificial crisis which has “nothing to do with criminal activity”.

Among the issues raised by Blatter in the interview:

An unsubstantiated claim that there was a pre-vote agreement in place that Russia would host the 2018 World Cup and the USA would host the 2022 tournament – which was undone when Platini pressed for Qatar following a meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy and the crown prince of Qatar.

An insistence that Russia will not be stripped of the 2018 World Cup, whatever the investigations into the validity of the bidding process turn up. Blatter said the tournament was now “anchored” and could not be withdrawn.

An attack on the Fifa ethics committee for failing him and imposing a suspension that was “total nonsense … I put these people into the office, where they are now, and they don’t even have had the courage to listen.”

A claim that he wanted to step down as Fifa president after the 2014 World Cup, “but at that time five of the six confederations have asked me at the 2014 congress, ‘Please stay as president.’”

And an ambition that he will return from his ban to lead the next Fifa congress in February. “If God is with me, I do hope that I’ll be back as president of Fifa. Then I could at least conduct this congress. This is my dream.”

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Blatter and Platini were both given 90-day bans after the Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, opened a criminal investigation into allegations that Blatter mis-sold a TV rights contract to the former Fifa official Jack Warner, and made a “disloyal payment” to Platini in 2011. Blatter and Platini both deny wrongdoing.

Discussing the £1.3m payment, Blatter set out his recollection of events for TASS, saying: “When [Platini] was chairman of the organising committee for the [1998] France World Cup, he told me at the end of the Cup, ‘I would like to work for you.’

“I said this is great because we all already worked with him. And then he said that I am very expensive. I said okay. So he said, ‘I am worth one million a year.’ I said I cannot pay this, it’s impossible. And he said, ‘Okay, then pay me later.’ So we have made some contract, where he got some money, but not one million. He was working until he was elected in 2002 to Fifa Executive Committee and UefaExecutive Committee.

“He stopped his working contract because he was then an official of Fifa. He never touched this issue until 2010. In 2010 he approached the financial director of Fifa by saying, ‘Hey, listen, Fifa owes us money.’ I was informed about that and I said, okay let him make an invoice of this what we owe him. And then he said we owe him two million Swiss francs. And then I analysed that and I said okay. Yes, it’s a contract we have made. It’s a principle I have in my life that if you owe money to somebody, then you pay it. Then we paid it. That’s all. And this money was not paid for any other reasons.”

Elsewhere in the interview, though, Blatter is far less conciliatory towards Platini’s position, blaming the Frenchman for whipping up the turmoil surrounding world football’s governing body.

Claiming Uefa had led a campaign to remove him for the last three years, Blatter pointed towards a “personal attack” by Platini, and a wider European agenda involving the European Union.

“Who has been involved in this attacking situation towards the Fifa president? Politics. The European Union. Because this matter was then discussed in the European Union and if you go to the history, the European Union’s parliament has taken resolutions twice – first, Blatter shall not be elected. But that is political interference in sport. And after being elected Blatter should go out. Twice they did it. The European Union Parliament.

“Platini started it, but then it became politics. And when it is in politics, it is not any longer Platini against me, it is then those who have lost the World Cup. England against Russia. They lost the World Cup. And the USA lost the World Cup against Qatar. But you cannot destroy Fifa. Fifa is not the Swiss bank. Fifa is not a commercial company. So, what they have done together with the Swiss, they have created this attack towards Fifa and the president of Fifa.

“And you are from TASS and you know what are the problems between your country and the US. The Fifa World Cup or the Fifa president is a ball in the big political power game.”

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Blatter said Platini’s dislike for him was because: “He wants to be Fifa president. But he had not the courage to go as the president. Fifa is working well. Since I became president of Fifa, we have made Fifa a big commercial company. And this naturally provokes envy and jealousy.”

Asked when they fell out, Blatter said: “It was after he was elected Uefa president in 2007. One year we were the best friends. And one year later in the 2008 European Championship in Switzerland and Austria I was sidelined by Uefa. And since then I never went to Uefa competitions because it’s non-respect, not to me as a person, but to the office and the people I represent. He could not [explain it]. Uefa is affected by anti-Fifa virus for years. They have an anti-Fifa virus.”

On how Qatar ended up hosting a World Cup, Blatter claimed there was an agreement in place before the voting began that the 2018 tournament would go to Russia and 2022 to the USA, until Platini intervened.

In comments that will provoke further controversy over World Cup bidding – with England, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Holland having spent tens of millions of pounds on the process – Blatter said: “In 2010 we had a discussion of the World Cup and then we went to a double decision. For the World Cups 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 will have the World Cup in the two biggest political powers.

“And everything was good until the moment when Sarkozy came in a meeting with the crown prince of Qatar, who is now the ruler of Qatar. And at a lunch afterwards with Mr Platini he said it would be good to go to Qatar. And this has changed all pattern. There was an election by secret ballot. Four votes from Europe went away from the USA and so the result was fourteen to eight. If you put the four votes, it would have been twelve to ten. If the USA was given the World Cup, we would only speak about the wonderful World Cup 2018 in Russia and we would not speak about any problems at Fifa.”

On which of the seven candidates he now favours to replace him, Blatter said: “At least 140 national associations cannot exist without Fifa. And these people want somebody who goes on with the same idea that football is not only the Champions League. This is also very important for me, for my legacy that somebody’s coming in and trying to go on with the development of football. Personally, I think most of the candidates here would like to do that, with the exception of Platini.

“I’ll tell [my successor]: don’t forget that Fifa is the most valuable institution in the world. On one side, our game is best in discipline and respect. It’s a school of life for all its players. And secondly, it’s a game that gives you emotions. And today emotion is very important. Emotion and hope because in football you lose today and you can win tomorrow. It creates people with a positive thinking.

“Football is connecting people. It brings people together. It makes bridges. This is football, and this we cannot abandon.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com

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