Lausanne - 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 22:35. "I
cannot give any prognosis how it will be decided."
He entered CAS shortly before 08:00 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 $2 million 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
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
"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, 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 16:30, but made
time for some mild mocking of Blatter's stubble.
"Blatter is a little tired. He has a beard, so I'll
send him a razor," the ex-UEFA boss said.
Blatter restated his claim that he authorised the payment
because FIFA owed Platini money.
Platini had been hired by FIFA as a consultant from 1999 to
2002 and had apparently not received his full compensation.
"I am sure, at the end... that the panel will
understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had"
with him, Blatter said on Thursday.
"This is a principle: if you have debts you pay
FIFA's ethics committee was not convinced by the
explanation, banning both Blatter and Platini for eight years in December.
Those suspensions were however cut to six years on appeal in February.
CAS however judged FIFA's sanctions against Platini
"too severe" and trimmed his suspension to four years.
That outcome would likely offer little comfort to the ageing
Blatter, whose four-decade career as a football broker is likely over.
Separate from the Platini case, Swiss prosecutors are also
investigating Blatter over alleged mismanagement during his 17-year tenure as
He was replaced in that job by fellow Swiss national and
former UEFA number two Gianni Infantino in February.
An investigation commissioned by Infantino's administration
also accused Blatter and two top deputies - Jerome Valcke and Markus Kattner -
of awarding themselves nearly $80 million worth of improper salary increases
and bonuses during their final five years in office.
Both Valcke and Kattner have been sacked by FIFA. Valcke is
also the subject of a Swiss criminal probe.
Blatter and Platini were the most prominent casualties
during more than a year of unprecedented scandal that upended world football,
but many others have fallen.
Prosecutors in New York have indicted 40 football and sports
marketing executives over allegedly receiving tens of millions of dollars in
bribes and kickbacks.