Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, two of the most powerful men in soccer, were banned from the sport for eight years Monday morning by FIFA’s ethics committee.
The bans come after a lengthy investigation into a $2 million payment from Blatter, the president of FIFA, to Platini, the president of the European governing body (UEFA) in 2011. Blatter and Platini claimed that the payment was made for work that Platini had done as an advisor for Blatter from 1998-2002.
However, there was no provision for such a payment in the FIFA contract both had signed in 1999, and the payment was not recorded in FIFA’s books. Shortly after receiving the payment, Platini endorsed Blatter’s 2011 re-election campaign.
With Blatter stepping down as president in February as a result of the Swiss and American investigations into FIFA’s finances, Platini was considered an overwhelming favorite to replace him. At 60, he is much younger than his 79-year-old partner in crime, and his long career as an executive for UEFA and FIFA followed a brilliant career as a player. He ran the 1998 World Cup in France, and his rise to the top of the sport has seemed inevitable.
“I’m convinced that my fate was decided before the December 18 hearing and that this decision is just a pathetic maneuver to hide a true will of taking me out of the football world,” he said in a statement.
Both men said they intend to appeal the suspensions, with Blatter claiming that the ethics committee did not have the power to suspend him from the presidency.
“I’m really sorry. I’m sorry that I am still somewhere a punching ball,” Blatter said at a Monday press conference. “As president of FIFA, I’m still this punching ball. I’m sorry for FIFA. I’m sorry for football. I’m also sorry about me. How I am treated in this world.”