By Andrew Warshaw
July 3 – Defiant as ever, Sepp Blatter says he will travel to Russia for next year’s World Cup despite serving a six-year ban from all football-related activities imposed by FIFA’s ethics committee.
The 81-year-old former FIFA president told SonntagsBlick he had been personally invited by Russian president.
“Yes, definitely,” said Blatter when asked if he would go to Russia. “I may only not be used as a referee, but everything else is possible.”
Blatter has been keeping his overseas travel commitments to a minimum in recent months as a result of the ongoing corruption probe in the United States even though he is not one of those indicted. He is, however, the subject of a criminal proceedings in his native Switzerland.
During the same interview, Blatter talked for the first time in public about last week’s publication by FIFA of the full Michael Garcia report into 2018/2022 World Cup bidding and why he didn’t publish it himself in 2014 after it was compiled.
Admitting he hadn’t actually read the 430-page report (a somewhat surprising revelation), Blatter said he was asked specifically by then chief ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert only to approve publication of Eckert’s 40-page summary.
“Otherwise one would have had to clarify the rights of each person mentioned in the report,” said Blatter, a comment that will make interesting reading for those who might now be lining up legal action against FIFA.
Blatter said he was “amazed” that Eckert and his chief prosecutor Cornel Borbely had been summarily removed from their positions with the approval of his successor, Gianni Infantino, adding the whole saga left a bad taste.
“Their removal was circulating in the media as early as March. I was just amazed that the two did not receive notice. Their removal is a very bad sign for FIFA.”
Blatter, who admitted in the Sonntagsblick interview that he maybe should have stepped down earlier in his reign rather than go on for 28 years, remains convinced that Qatar won the 2022 World Cup vote through politics. Blatter is widely understood to have backed the USA but implied Michel Platini’s vote for the Gulf state was decisive.
Platini, like Blatter banned from football involvement, has always denied he was swayed by the French government into supporting Qatar’s bid but Blatter said: “I have said several times that politics decided everything. France’s (then) President Sarkozy ordered Platini to vote for political interests for Qatar. So it began. Otherwise the USA would have got the World Cup.”
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