Game over for Blat­ter

Dis­graced Fifa boss fi­nally con­cedes de­feat and says his work in foot­ball has of­fi­cially come to an end

CityPress - - Sport - TIM­O­THY MOLOBI tim­o­thy@city­press.co.za

It has been quite a week for banned Fifa pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter. His 17-year reign as the head of Fifa crum­bled in dis­grace af­ter the world foot­ball gov­ern­ing body’s ethics com­mit­tee banned him from the sport for eight years. On Mon­day, Blat­ter and sus­pended Uefa pres­i­dent Michel Pla­tini were banned from any foot­ball-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties for the next eight years for con­flict of in­ter­est in a £1.35 mil­lion (R30.6 mil­lion at the cur­rent ex­change rate) pay­ment deal that is also the sub­ject of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Switzer­land.

The bans were ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately and end any chance of Blat­ter con­tin­u­ing his in­volve­ment with soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body.

The ban also casts doubts on Pla­tini’s hopes of run­ning for the Fifa pres­i­dency on Fe­bru­ary 26. But both men are not go­ing down with­out a fight. They have main­tained their in­no­cence and have vowed to fight their bans through the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport.

While Blat­ter de­clared this week, “I will be back”, he was singing a dif­fer­ent tune later in the week and con­ceded de­feat.

Blat­ter told The Wall Street Jour­nal his work in foot­ball was of­fi­cially “fin­ished”. “I’ve fin­ished my work in foot­ball. I lost faith in our or­gan­i­sa­tion on May 27 with this in­ter­ven­tion by Amer­i­can law en­force­ment.”

Given that Blat­ter is 79, it is un­likely he will work in foot­ball again in an of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity, while it means Pla­tini – who would have been the favourite to win in Fe­bru­ary’s elec­tion – can­not run to re­place Blat­ter.

Only five can­di­dates have been ap­proved to stand af­ter pass­ing Fifa’s in­tegrity test.

They are for­mer South African gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Tokyo Sexwale, Jor­dan Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Prince Ali bin al-Hus­sein, pres­i­dent of the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion Sheikh Sal­man bin Ebrahim al-Khal­ifa, for­mer Fifa ex­ec­u­tive Jérôme Cham­pagne and Uefa gen­eral sec­re­tary Gianni In­fantino. Prince Ali stood against Blat­ter in the last elec­tion in May amid the cor­rup­tion and bribery scan­dal.

The Blat­ter-Pla­tini case that led to the ban cen­tred on the pay­ment the Fifa boss made to the Uefa chief in Fe­bru­ary 2011.

The pair claimed the fee was for con­sul­tancy work they had agreed on ver­bally, but it was made nine years af­ter the work was sup­posed to have been car­ried out. They were found guilty of breaches sur­round­ing the “dis­loyal” pay­ment made to Pla­tini. All the two are fight­ing for is to save face and for their rep­u­ta­tions not to be tar­nished fur­ther.

Fifa has been in cri­sis since the be­gin­ning of this year, par­tic­u­larly in the lead-up to the elec­tive con­gress that saw Blat­ter re-elected as pres­i­dent in May.

Barely a month af­ter his re-elec­tion, he re­signed, due mostly to the Fifa scan­dal. Since then, 16 top Fifa of­fi­cials have been ar­rested af­ter US al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion at the high­est level in foot­ball, and the fed­er­a­tion’s gen­eral sec­re­tary, Jérôme Val­cke, has been sus­pended.

Nowhere was Blat­ter’s sup­port stronger than across Asia and Africa. He won the hearts and minds of Africa’s foot­ball es­tab­lish­ment through Fifa’s Goal project, which de­liv­ers mil­lions of dol­lars to im­prove fa­cil­i­ties. But this is not how he had hoped his term would end at the global body with his im­age tar­nished. Blat­ter and Pla­tini are banned from soc­cer for eight years by the ethics com­mit­tee

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