October 10, 2015 / 1:27 PM / 3 years ago

Blatter's ex defends suspended soccer boss

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a news conference after the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Sepp Blatter’s ex-wife has defended the powerful soccer boss who was suspended as FIFA president this week amid a corruption probe.

“Everyone wants to crucify him now,” Graziella Blatter-Bianca, a former dolphin trainer whose marriage to Blatter ended in 2004 after around a year, told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

“And no one wants to accept any more how much good he has done for soccer, especially for the advancement of women on the pitch as well as in the ranks of officialdom,” she said, insisting her ex-husband was keen to fight corruption in the sport.

She said Blatter, who has denied any wrongdoing, told her he was “OK” when she called him after news broke on Thursday of his provisional suspension, which he is seeking to overturn.

Swiss prosecutors last month opened a criminal investigation of Blatter on suspicions of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds over a television rights contract he signed in 2005 and a 2 million Swiss franc ($2.1 million) payment in 2011 to Michel Platini, president of the UEFA soccer confederation.

Platini has also denied any wrongdoing and is fighting to reverse his provisional suspension as well.

Blatter’s marriage to Graziella, more than a quarter century his junior, was his third.

($1 = 0.9614 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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