Ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter says his phone is still ringing
Blatter tells CNN leaders are waiting for his message
He may be exiled from football but former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since he was deposed as the leader of the game’s global governing body.
“When I look at which (political) leaders are directly in contact (with me) … people like China, like Russia, like South Africa, like Japan … also European leaders,” Blatter told CNN’s Alex Thomas.
“I also have contact with presidents of associations in Africa,” added Blatter, who is currently serving a six-year ban from football.
“They still ask me now, they say ‘president, now you have to speak. We are all waiting. We are all waiting for your messages. Bring us messages now, president.’”
“I say: ‘Just a little while. I will come back.’”
Blatter was removed from his position at FIFA late last year with the organization engulfed in accusations of bribery and corruption but has stated previously he will challenge that decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
A criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department remains ongoing amidst charges that include money laundering, wire fraud and racketeering over many years by senior figures at FIFA.
The Swiss attorney general’s office also continues to probe the process that saw Russia and Qatar awarded host nation status for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively.
Speaking to CNN, however, the 80-year-old Blatter cut a relaxed figure and a man at ease with life despite the tumult of the past year.
As Blatter sat down for the interview, his daughter Corinne walked over and whispered a few words in his ear in German. Blatter laughed heartily, before playfully slapping her on the backside. “She’s my daughter,” he quickly explained in English.
This bullish demeanor is perhaps surprising given the nature of his exit from FIFA, whom he first joined as a technical director in 1975 before serving as president between 1998 and 2015.
He describes the raids that saw several senior FIFA figures arrested at the Hotel Baur au Lac last May and set in motion the events that would see him forced out of the organization in ignominy as a “coup d’etat” led by the U.S. and assisted by the Swiss.
“I can understand that the Americans are not always happy with what’s happened somewhere in the world because they try to be the police of the world everywhere,” Blatter says.
“But I couldn’t understand that the Swiss authorities had agreed.”
Blatter also firmly refutes bribery allegations made against him, adding that his major regret is investing trust in the wrong people.
“Absolutely. I never took bribes,” he says. “Never. This is the principle I have in my life from my father – never take money you have not earned.
“My approach to people is by saying ‘I trust you. I trust you. I trust you.’ This is one of the things you can say: ‘Why do you trust all these people?’
“This hurts because now I see that I trusted the wrong people,” he adds.
Blatter, who says he has now moved back to his hometown of Visp deep within the Swiss Alps, was often fond of speaking about the “FIFA family” in his time as president.
He laments that it has become a “cold” organization in his absence, although adds that this is not a fault of Gianni Infantino who has only recently been elected.
Blatter maintains he still has friends within FIFA but at the same time hints he feels some former colleagues have failed to stick by him.
“When you are at the top of such an organization like FIFA, you have not many friends. You have a lot of, let’s say, companions even accomplices,” Blatter says.
“They want to be with you because it’s good to be with the number one. It’s good to be there. But when it comes to real friendship, then there are very, very few.”
Blatter was speaking as he promoted his new book, “Sepp Blatter: Mission & Passion Football,” an account of 18-years as football’s most senior administrator.
He says that he has “enough connections around the world that they will look after me,” should he require money to support his appeal.
“I have not spent the money, all the money I earned at FIFA. I have no boat. I have no private plane or something like that,” he adds.
And despite the lengthy ban handed down by FIFA’s Ethics Committee late last year, Blatter is comfortable in his own mind that those who know him best are on his side.
“What I have witnessed now since I have been suspended, is that … the majority of the FIFA team they are with me,” he says.
“They regret what has happened and they are with me.”