Blatter, Platini defiant after 8-year FIFA ban

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Suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter holds a press conference in Zurich, Switzerland, yesterday after the world football governing body's ethics committee banned him and UEFA chief Michel Platini for eight years.

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were each banned for eight years by the FIFA ethics committee yesterday in a stunning removal of world soccer's most powerful leaders.

FIFA President Blatter and his one-time protege Platini were kicked out of the sport for conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA in a US$2 million payment deal that is also the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland.

Both men were defiant in response to the verdict, with each saying they will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and insisting they had done nothing wrong. "I will fight," Blatter told a news conference in Zurich. "I will fight until the end."

Platini described the proceedings as a "true mockery".

Blatter invoked Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and the United Nations in a spirited 52-minute performance holding court with international media. He also said he will challenge his ban at the FIFA appeal committee.

His last words were: "I'll be back, thank you."

Blatter's trademark fighting talk was delivered while still sporting a strip of surgical tape on his right cheek after a minor medical procedure five days earlier.

Still, his FIFA career is ending in disgrace after more than 17 years as president and 40 years in total with the scandal-hit governing body.

Blatter made it clear he regretted his current position but declared he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

"I am not ashamed," he said. "I am sorry that I am a punching ball. I am sorry for football... I am now suspended eight years, suspended eight years. Suspended eight years for what?"

Platini was also dismissive of the ethics commission's work.

He said its proceedings, which included a hearing earlier this month that he did not attend, had been "orchestrated... by governing bodies that I know well" to tarnish him.

Fate was sealed

"I'm convinced that my fate was sealed before the December 18 hearing and that this decision is just a pathetic maneuver to hide a true will of taking me out of the football world," the Frenchman said.

"My behavior has always been faultless and I'm at peace with my own conscience."

Platini, who also said he will file a lawsuit in a civil court to seek damages for what he had endured, now looks unlikely to succeed in his bid to replace Blatter in the February 26 presidential election. In a brief statement, UEFA said it was "extremely disappointed" with the ruling and supported its leader's right to clear his name.

FIFA's ethics judges decided that Blatter and Platini broke ethics rules on conflicts of interest, breach of loyalty and offering or receiving gifts.

Platini took US$2 million of FIFA money in 2011 approved by Blatter as uncontracted salary for work as a presidential adviser from 1999-2002.

In yesterday's verdict, Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs (US$50,250) and Platini 80,000 Swiss francs.

"Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment," the judges said. "By failing to place FIFA's interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA's interests, Mr Blatter violated his fiduciary duty to FIFA.

"His (Blatter's) assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber."

Blatter hit back at that conclusion during his news conference, portraying the ethics committee as saying of Platini and himself: "He's a liar and I'm a liar."

"This is not correct," Blatter said.

Responding to a reporter's question, he said in French: "I'm sad. It can't go on this way. It's not possible. After 40 years, it can't happen this way. .. I'm fighting to restore my rights."

Blatter acknowledged an administrative "error" in failing to register FIFA's debt to Platini in its accounts for eight years, though he insisted: "This is nothing to do with the ethics regulations."

Blatter, who turns 80 in March, said he wants to preside over the FIFA congress on February 26 where his successor will be elected.

The 60-year-old Platini wants to clear his name, pass a FIFA integrity check and be declared an official candidate in the election he had been favored to win.

Platini's campaign has stalled since he was questioned on September 25 in a Swiss federal investigation of suspected criminal mismanagement at FIFA.

Switzerland's attorney general has opened criminal proceedings against Blatter for the suspected "disloyal payment" of FIFA money to Platini and selling undervalued World Cup TV rights for the Caribbean.

Platini was paid in February 2011, just before Blatter began campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Platini's UEFA urged its members weeks before the June 2011 election to back Blatter, who was elected unopposed when Bin Hammam was implicated in bribery.

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