The Desolation of Sepp

Tomorrow in Zurich, the FIFA Ethics Committee will hear the case of UEFA President in Absentia Michel Platini, and discuss whether "Hey, how would you like two million bucks?" is a binding and legal contract.

Platini himself will be elsewhere; he has stated that the whole thing is a sham, a travesty and a mockery of justice and he has no intention of giving it the dignity of his presence. No doubt the panel will be duly impressed, but his position makes one thing very clear:

He knows damn well that they're going to find him guilty and suspend him for several years - the current betting is at least seven, but ten is moving up fast and the closer he gets to calling Judge Eckert a fraud the more you hear the "L" word:

Lifetime ban.

Unfortunately for the former French footballer, his hearing will come as something of an anticlimax,coming as it will after today's hearing on the charges against his former bosom pal Sepp Blatter.

Who has made it clear he intends to appear and plead his case, a position which was confirmed as he arrived at FIFA HQ.


The main difference between Platni and Blatter at this point is that Platini knows that they're going to suspend him no matter what he says or does.

Blatter, however, doesn't believe that for a minute, and is certain that he can talk his way out of it.

One reason is that he's SEPP BLATTER, Sportsman to the World, and he can't believe that this bunch of flunkies, who he hand picked and installed in those very seats himself, will use the ethics process that he himself designed and approved as window dressing and a sop to shut up the sob sisters, to give him the boot.  

The other reason is that Blatter, sitting in what amounts to solitary confinement at home without his army of functionaries, gophers, personal chefs, chauffeurs, pilots and assorted lickspittles surrounding him, seems more and more detached from reality.

As evidence, consider:

- In an interview with Russian "news agency" TASS (one of the only media outfits on Earth who'll agree to print what Blatter wants without asking questions), Klaus Stohlker, Sepp's lawyer/spokesman/adviser, said that when his successor is finally installed, the Swiss Gasbag believes he should be made Honorary President of FIFA.

Now in fact that sort of thing was specifically offered to him by a number of people prior to his re-election early last year, and he turned them all down flat. He had the votes.

In so many ways, deciding to break his promise to Platini and UEFA and stand for election again was how he got himself into the situation he's in now. He was offered a dignified way out. Now that it's all gone south, you'd have to be delusional to expect to be the honored elder statesman, particularly since suspension will mean banishment from matches, official receptions, meetings, FIFA hotels, everything.

And even he has to realize that, at now close to 80 years old, a ten or even seven year suspension is pretty much a lifetime ban.

- In an interview right after Thanksgiving, Blatter told Swiss network SRF that the Ethics Committee has no jurisdiction over him.

Comparing himself -as he has so often in the past - to a Head of State, he told the gobsmacked interviewer that "If one wants to revoke an elected president, only parliament can ask for that."

"I'm not a Fifa official, I'm the elected president of the Congress" he continued, in an attempt to redefine himself as FIFA's Prime Minster rather than it's President. "If one does not agree with the way I do my job, one has to turn to the congress that elected me."

Asked where it was stated in Fifa statutes that the president is not a Fifa official, Blatter said: "When you look at the definition in the statutes, it says I'm not a Fifa official."

Judge Eckert was quick to respond that, in essence, Blatter was simply wrong. Wrong on the facts, wrong on the definitions, wrong on the statutes, wrong, wrong, wrong. He didn't seem amused.

- Then, just last week, during a BBC Panorama report authored in part by our old friend Andrew Jennings, came the news that US Attorney General Loretta Lynch (AKA "Sweet Loretta") has asked the Swiss Prosecutor for a copy of the file on the ISL scandal which nearly bankrupted FIFA and which has Blatter's fingerprints all over it.

You'll recall that FIFA's last "Honorary President" Joao Havelange and his son-in-law, the criminally deranged former ExCo VP Richard Texiera, among others, were found to have profited mightily from a pay-for-tv-rights scheme which sloshed over $100 million around to various FIFA officials.

(At one point a million dollar bribe check intended for Havelange was misdirected to FIFA. The records reflect that Blatter helpfully forwarded it on to the intended recipient.)

Blatter has always maintained that he knew nothing, and the Swiss declined to include him as a defendant, which has allowed him to claim ever afterwards that he was "found innocent".

So it was something of a stunner when Jennings reported having seen a letter in which Havelange says that Blatter had "full knowledge of all activities" with regard to the payments and was "always apprised" of them.

The US DoJ's angle is likely that, as with much of the current skulduggery, Texiera and Havelange preferred using US banks - Miami mostly - for the transfer of funds.That this was a bad idea is something Jeff Webb could tell them, or maybe he has: a couple months ago Texiera sold his $8 million Miami waterfront mansion, cleaned out his bank accounts and blew town.

Blatter's response to this latest revelation: he says the case is "closed" and he won't discuss it. A position which always worked for him when dealing with the media; we'll see how effective it is with the FBI.

- Then, just a couple days ago, Blatter sent an extraordinary letter to all 209 FIFA federations. (It must have hurt to be forced to actually buy the stamps instead of running it through FIFA's mailroom).

He tells them that everything at FIFA is "going very smoothly", which is reassuring.

Then he claims to be “bewildered by the insinuations and allegations brought against me" and says that his parents taught him some basic values. It's not known whether they included spreading the graft around, tossing inconvenient allies under the bus and getting in bed with Russian gangsters and Qatari oligarchs, but no matter.

He then argues his case about the Platini payoff - he "assures" them that it was legal - and ends by throwing himself a little pity party, claiming that the Ethics process he himself designed and installed to great fanfare and self congratulation (and which has seen a number of former close friends and allies of his get axed to no complaint from his office) is comparable to "the Inquisition"

No word from Judge Eckert on how he feels being compared to Torquemada, but if he were to go ahead and employ thumb screws or possibly the rack on Seppy today not many people would complain.

More than anything, his letter seems like an appeal to the only body he judges competent to remove him, ie. the FIFA Parliament. Er, Congress.

Because although Blatter says he intends to vigorously plead his case today, Platini's lawyer says that they've recommended a lifetime ban for his client and while Sepp says that he's not allowed to discuss it - which, according to FIFA statutes, is true - he refers in his letter to the committee having recommended "the maximum penalty".

- Just yesterday, Stohlker told a reporter that Blatter, as the elected President of FIFA, fully intends to continue his "tradition" of sending a "year end letter" to each of the federations. He noted, apparently without irony, that Blatter would be using"private stationery".

- Finally - and I hope you're sitting down - Blatter himself, in a brief interview with Mundo Deportivo yesterday, announced that he's very excited about being able to hand out the Ballon d'Or at the ceremony in Zurich on January 11.

No, seriously. His current temporary suspension will end January 5 and he figures he'll be good to go:

"I hope that after my appearance before the Fifa Ethics Committee that everything turns out fine and they can lift my suspension of 90 days, or at least not extend it." Blatter told the stunned reporter.

Is he delusional? Drunk? Even if by some miracle he was in between suspensions somehow, the last thing a single solitary person at FIFA wants is Sepp making a speech and handing Messi, Neymar or Ronaldo a trophy while posing for pictures which will be mercilessly mocked the whole world over the next day. 

In the end of course, both Blatter and Platini will be found guilty, whether they appear and pound the table of stay away and pout. Doesn't matter.

Next stop is the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Which was always going to be the case. Right now, everybody is just staking out their position.

Except for Sepp; he appears to be on a trip to Fantasyland.