ZURICH (Reuters) - Sepp Blatter, suspended president of soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, said he aimed to return to office in time to hand over power to a successor to be elected at a special congress in February.
Blatter, 18 years in office, was suspended for 90 days amid the worst corruption scandal in FIFA’s history. He had previously announced he was standing down but had hoped to retain his post for the formal handover, asserting his innocence of any wrongdoing.
“If I run away now and let everything fall, then I denigrate myself,” Blatter told RROTV, a regional broadcaster based in the canton of Valais.
”That’s my goal, that I can lead the Congress.”
Swiss and U.S. authorities are running corruption investigations that have so far led to the indictment of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives. Among other things, they are examining the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini, who is a candidate to succeed the Swiss at the presidential election on Feb 26, were suspended for 90 days by FIFA’s Ethics Committee on Oct 8, with a 2011 payment from FIFA to Platini under scrutiny.
Platini has said the payment was for work he carried out under a contract for FIFA as an advisor to Blatter between 1999 and 2002. The Frenchman said the nine-year delay in payment was due to FIFA’s financial situation.
Blatter said that he had had a “gentleman’s agreement” with Platini over the payment. “It was a contract I had with Michel Platini, a gentleman’s agreement and that was followed through on,” said the 79-year-old.
Blatter said the suspension was a shock.
“But even though this decision is very difficult to digest, it is at the same time been a release for me. Now I am out of work and I can look after myself.”
Reporting by Joshua Franklin, writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing by Ralph Boulton