Sepp Blatter is surrounded by the media as he leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Wednesday. AFP
Full of smiles and confidence before entering the courtroom, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter claimed later Wednesday he was bothered by chest pains and unable to testify on the opening day of his criminal trial.
Once the most powerful man in the world of soccer, Blatter is facing charges of defrauding FIFA in a Swiss criminal court. He is on trial along with former France great Michel Platini, his former protégé who had been considered Blatter’s successor as president of the governing body of soccer.
Platini was also in court, sitting with an interpreter behind Blatter. The 86-year-old Blatter was due to be questioned on Wednesday but when he was called to the stand about an hour before the court was scheduled to adjourn – following several motions from the defense that were all rejected — he asked instead to respond Thursday morning, when Platini is also set to be questioned.
Michel Planini leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona. Reuters
“I’m not well. I have these problems that come and go,” Blatter, sitting with his lawyer on a long bench, said in a voice barely louder than a whisper. “I can’t breathe well. I don’t feel capable at the moment of responding to an interrogation.”
Blatter had earlier left the court for a break — another concession given to him because of his age — walking slowly out and clutching onto the shoulder of his daughter, Corinne Blatter Andenmatten. “I hope that I’ll feel better tomorrow,” Blatter said.
The trial is expected to last 11 days and the court will sit only until lunchtime each day because of Blatter’s health. He was in a coma following heart surgery 18 months ago.
The former FIFA president arrived at the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland in Bellinzona in a buoyant mood, expressing confidence when asked about his chances.
“Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely,” Blatter said. “I feel optimistic, like always. With the beautiful sunshine. It’s the first day of a trial that’s going to last almost two weeks. If I didn’t feel confident the first day that would be bad. I am very confident.” Blatter’s 17-year reign as FIFA president came to an end in June 2015, when he resigned amid a corruption scandal. A few months later, federal prosecutors in Switzerland revealed their investigation into a $2 million payment from FIFA to Platini from four years earlier.
Both Blatter and Platini have long denied wrongdoing and claim they had a verbal deal in 1998 for the money.