Zurich - Sepp Blatter feels relief at no
longer being FIFA president and warmly praised his successor Gianni Infantino
Blatter seemed happy and at peace in an
interview with The Associated Press to reflect on the end of 17 often combative
years atop soccer's scandal-hit governing body.
"It is a relief. I had this burden on
me," he said, enjoying his first day out of FIFA's employment since 1975.
On Wednesday, his FIFA ethics ban for financial conflicts of interest was cut
to six years.
"Being suspended or not, I was still
the elected president. And now it is finished," Blatter said.
A weight was lifted off him on Friday evening
the minute he watched on television as Infantino won the election to replace
"It was even a welcome day yesterday,
18:01, when they had a new president," he said in the European style for
18:01. He then paused and exhaled deeply.
When the moment arrived, Blatter said he
was with his daughter, Corinne, at her apartment in Zurich. He was drinking a
glass of white wine from his native Valais region in Switzerland.
"It was important for FIFA to have a
change," said Blatter, who turns 80 in two weeks.
Blatter and the 45-year-old Infantino were
born in the neighbouring towns of Visp and Brig.
"He is a young man, he is powerful, he
has a lot of energy and I am sure he will do the right job," Blatter said.
Both rose to become FIFA president - just
the eighth and ninth in its 112-year history - after being the CEO-like top
official at, respectively, FIFA and the European soccer body UEFA.
"It is a repetition of history, that
is something," said Blatter, who previously traded barbs with Infantino as
part of wider tensions between the two organisations.
"If a majority of the 207 national
associations so clearly indicated where they want to go then I can only say,
'Gianni, good luck and do it,'" Blatter said.
He said he knew Infantino would win when
the first-round result was announced in the four-candidate vote Friday. It gave
Infantino an 88-85 lead over pre-poll favourite Sheikh Salman of Bahrain.
"This means that everybody is going
for the winner for the second (round)," said Blatter, who got two of his
five FIFA election wins when his opponent conceded after trailing in the first
The tactical shifts Blatter predicted
helped Infantino pad his margin to a decisive 115-88 lead in the second round.
A long time master of FIFA politics,
Blatter understood on Thursday that the sheikh's front-runner status through
much of a four-month campaign might not hold up.
"I was not surprised with the result
when I have known the day before that there was no longer the packages by the
confederations," he said, referring to potential bloc votes by continent.
"Finally, it was the African votes that have made all the