Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has refuted 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.
“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.'”
He furthers says his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since he was deposed as the leader of the game’s global governing body while speaking with CNN.
“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,”
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.
“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 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.”
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.”