Blatter fights FIFA ban in marathon final appeal

Lausanne (AFP) – Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter fought to overturn his ban from football in a marathon, 14-hour appeal hearing on Thursday, in a long-shot bid at redemption after his career ended in disgrace.

Blatter mounted his defence against the six-year FIFA suspension imposed over ethics violations at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which typically has the final word in major sport disputes. 

Engulfed by corruption scandals since May of last year and the target of a criminal investigation in his native Switzerland, the 80-year-old Blatter appeared upbeat after emerging from the courthouse well into the night.

“It’s a long day,” Blatter said at 10:35 pm (2035 GMT). “I cannot give any prognosis how it will be decided.”

He entered CAS shortly before 8:00 am wearing a dark navy suit and sporting some light stubble, telling reporters he remained “optimistic” and had confidence in the arbitrators. 

The case that triggered Blatter’s downfall first emerged in September of last year, when Swiss prosecutors said they were investigating him over a suspect two million Swiss franc payment ($2 million, 1.8 million euros) he authorised in 2011 to his one-time heir apparent, Michel Platini. 

Blatter has insisted the payment was part of a legitimate oral contract, a claim that has been rejected in multiple hearings at FIFA’s in-house courts. 

World football’s former most powerful man said he would respect the CAS decision, which should be delivered within weeks. 

“I will accept the verdict,” Blatter said before the hearing.

“I do hope it will be positive for me, but we are footballers. We learn to win but also we learn to lose,” he added. 

– Platini testifies –

Platini, the former head of European football, was also sanctioned by FIFA over the funds. 

The Frenchman lost his CAS appeal in a May verdict that likely diminishes Blatter’s hopes of victory.

Speaking to reporters before giving evidence at Thursday’s closed-door hearing, Platini said Blatter’s fate may already be sealed. 

“I’m not sure if a decision hasn’t already been made,” he said, vowing to tell the truth about the infamous payment “for the umpteenth time.”

Platini left CAS after testifying at around 4:30 pm, but made time for some mild mocking of Blatter’s stubble.

“Mr. Blatter is a little tired. He has a beard, so I’ll send him a razor,” the ex-UEFA boss said.  

– Settling a debt? –

Blatter restated his claim that he authorised the payment because FIFA owed Platini money.

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