LONDON — Suspended and shamed, Sepp Blatter is still hoping to return to power as FIFA president within the next 10 days.
Blatter was banned for 90 days on Thursday, essentially ending his 17-year reign as the leader of soccer’s governing body. But Klaus Stoehlker, a close associate of Blatter, told The Associated Press on Friday that the Swiss official is aiming to be back at work very soon.
“He has made an appeal and everybody hopes there will be a decision in the next 10 days,” Stoehlker said. “He is very, very tough … he is sure he will have the right to be back. He doesn’t feel he is out of the job. That’s a huge misunderstanding.”
Both Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini were given 90-day bans in the wake of a Swiss criminal case investigating financial misconduct at FIFA.
Blatter has lodged an appeal, his lawyers said Friday, and has asked for the ethics committee to release the reasons for the suspension. Platini has also said he will fight the decision.
Even if Blatter’s appeal fails, he could be back to work before the emergency presidential election scheduled for Feb. 26. Platini, however, would likely be forced out of the running to succeed Blatter if his expected appeal fails.
Given the extent of the crisis, however, the election could be postponed. That would be a decision for the FIFA executive committee, which is expected to meet on Oct. 20.
“We have to discuss this among ourselves and then we decide,” Cypriot executive committee member Marios Lefkaritis told the AP. “It’s not something automatically (to say) ‘Yes or no.’ It’s a very important topic item.”
One option could be to shift the election to the annual congress, which is due to be held in Mexico in May.
The acting FIFA president is Issa Hayatou, the head of the African soccer confederation. Hours after taking over as president on Thursday, Hayatou defended himself from accusations of corruption, denying that he and another former FIFA executive committee member received bribes of $1.5 million from Qatar at a meeting in Angola in early 2010.
“Someone said he was there when we were given $1.5 million each in Angola?,” said the 69-year-old Hayatou, who is from Cameroon. “It’s cash. How do you give each of us $1.5 million in Angola?”
Hayatou has said he will not stand in the upcoming election, leaving the field wide open.
Presidential contenders have to submit their candidacies by Oct. 26 to the FIFA ethics panel, which will assess whether they pass integrity checks. As it stands, Platini would almost certainly be deemed ineligible — even though his ban his due to expire before the election.
UEFA’s 54 members, who are due to meet on Thursday in Nyon, Switzerland, are still backing Platini.
“We need to discuss (calls for an election postponement) in more detail and understand the timeline and implications for those involved, including Mr. Platini,” Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan said. “Only then would we be able to make a balanced judgment.”
It has been two weeks since Swiss investigators turned up at Blatter’s office at FIFA headquarters and interrogated him. The criminal case
In a separate FIFA corruption case, Switzerland’s justice ministry granted an American request to extradite Costas Takkas, a former assistant to CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb and the former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association.
Takkas was among the seven officials arrested on May 27 in Zurich. He is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for awarding marketing contracts.
Rob Harris, The Associated Press