Outgoing Fifa president Sepp Blatter has defended the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, insisting “you cannot buy” the rights to host the competition as he awaits the outcome of his appeal against an eight-year ban.
The 79-year-old used an interview with the Times, as yet his only interaction with the British media since his suspension, to protest his innocence after being penalised for his role in a “disloyal payment” of £1.3m made to suspended Uefa president Michel Platini.
Discussing several of the scandals to have blighted his time in office, Blatter also made the claim that President Nicolas Sarkozy, of France, asked Platini to vote for Qatar in the ballot to decide the host country of the 2022 competition. Russia are set to stage the tournement in 2018.
“I am sure that there is justice in this world, and that I have committed nothing which goes to criminal law,” he said. “I have killed nobody, I have not robbed a bank, I have not taken any money from anywhere and I was even treating well all my ex-girlfriends. It’s true. They defend me. One I was married to only for a few months and she is really defending me.”
The Swiss has seen his inner circle in Zurich be arrested, banned or indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations but remains a largely influential figure following 18 years at the top of the world football governing body. Blatter, when asked about other accusations levelled at his door, protests that he knew nothing of the reported $10m payment to Jack Warner, the disgraced Caribbean football official, as part of the 2010 World Cup budget that Fifa diverted at South Africa.
“I was not aware of this,” he says. “This was a question at a press conference and I couldn’t answer. I did not even understand the question. And then later on [Fifa secretary general] Jerome Valcke told me ‘no this is correct, the question was correct’. So I told him ‘why haven’t you answered then?’ So the money was going through Fifa but it was not Fifa money, it was money from Africa.”
Blatter added: “You cannot buy a World Cup, it will go at the end where the higher political influences are.
“For 2022, Platini at least had the courtesy to phone me and say, 'now we have had a meeting with the head of state and if the head of state [Sarkozy] is asking me to support France for different reasons then I will'. He said 'my vote will not be for the Americans'.
“I knew then there would be a problem, we tried but it was too late. It was one week or ten days before the vote. I tried to see what votes were left for the US but four votes were lost.”
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