Platini 'happy' even as Blatter takes stand

ZURICH • Banned Fifa president Sepp Blatter was at the headquarters of football's governing body yesterday for a hearing to appeal against his eight-year suspension from the sport.

Blatter, 79, was banned in December along with European football boss Michel Platini over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs (S$2.8 million) made to the Frenchman in 2011 by Fifa with Blatter's approval for work done a decade earlier.

Fifa's ethics committee, which imposed the bans on the pair, said the payment, made at a time when the former was seeking re-election, lacked transparency and presented conflicts of interest.

Both men denied wrongdoing.

The case is now being heard by Fifa's appeal committee.

Sources close to Fifa said that Blatter had arrived at 7.30am local time, evading cameramen and photographers who had expected him to arrive later. His adviser Thomas Renggli expects to get the verdict later this week.

Platini's appeal was heard on Monday. The Frenchman said he was "happy" following his marathon session, which lasted more than eight hours.

"It was a good hearing, well led by sincere people. I was heard by people who are part of the football family. Now we'll see how it goes," he said.

Platini, accompanied by his lawyer Thibaud D'Ales, presented his two witnesses - Frenchman Jacques Lambert, the president of the Euro 2016 organising committee, and Spaniard Angel Maria Villar Llona, a Uefa vice-president - to prove the existence of the famous verbal contract agreed between himself and Blatter.

While most football power brokers typically enter Fifa's compound in luxury sedans with tinted windows, the 60-year-old Platini walked the final 100m to Fifa's gate, smiling and looking upbeat as reporters peppered him with questions.

"I am not fighting for my future, but against injustice," he said.

"If I had anything to feel guilty about, I would be in Siberia, hiding in shame," added the Frenchman, who is also a former Fifa vice-president. "I'm very well. There are worse things in life."

If the appeals panel rules against Platini and Blatter, both are expected to take their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

The notorious 2011 payment is also part of a criminal probe by Swiss prosecutors targeting Blatter, in which Platini has been questioned in a capacity that falls between a witness and an accused person.

Fifa is also engulfed by a graft scandal that has led to the indictment of several dozen leading football officials in the United States.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline 'Platini 'happy' even as Blatter takes stand'. Print Edition | Subscribe