Blatter says Platini could make comeback

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures as he gives an interview to news agencies on in Zurich on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2017
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Blatter says Platini could make comeback

ZURICH: Ex-FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Friday that a comeback was possible for his former ally Michel Platini, declining to hit back after the Frenchman savaged him in an interview last month.
Blatter said that Platini’s name may be cleared by “new elements” concerning the infamous two million Swiss franc payment ($2 million, €1.9 million) that triggered both men’s ouster from football.
“I think he should be back and I think it is not all over,” Blatter said, suggesting that former UEFA boss Platini could again take charge of the European confederation, or even FIFA.
Blatter is currently serving a six-year ban from football over the payment he authorized to Platini in 2011. Platini’s suspension was cut to four years on appeal.
The pair are united in claiming the transaction was legitimate, but bitter words have been swapped since details of the payment emerged in September 2015.
Blatter says he met with US Department of Justice officials and is not a suspect in their investigation of corruption linked to FIFA.
“I was never a person of interest or under scrutiny by the American justice. Never.”
Blatter’s most recent contact “with lawyers from the US Justice Department” was several months ago in Switzerland and was also attended by FIFA legal representatives, he says.
Blatter says: “I have been investigated in two or three matters but it’s no wrongdoing. So the only case which is pending for me is the Swiss case.”
Swiss federal prosecutors have also questioned Blatter, though he says “clarification” in their broader FIFA investigation and not related to a criminal proceedings opened against him in September 2015.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde last month, Platini called Blatter “the biggest egoist I’ve ever seen in my life.
“He always said I would be his last scalp,” the former Juventus star said of Blatter.
Platini, 61, claimed there was a campaign to “destroy” him waged by Blatter loyalists inside FIFA.
Blatter on Friday expressed confusion over Platini’s harsh tone.
“If he sees me as an egoist, I accept ... but I helped him become president of UEFA in 2007 and we had good relations, so I don’t understand his attitude. Saying I wanted to harm him doesn’t hold up,” Blatter, 81, told AFP.
Both claim the payment was compensation for consulting work Platini did for FIFA between 1998 and 2002.
There has been media speculation that Blatter approved the money a decade later to buy Platini’s support for his reelection as FIFA president.
There have also been suggestions that Marco Villiger, a close associate of Blatter and a FIFA legal director, leaked details of the controversial payment to Swiss prosecutors, who have ongoing criminal probe into the case.
Separately, Blatter took a jibe at the signature achievement of his successor Gianni Infantino, branding the new FIFA president’s 48-team World Cup a dangerous move.
Infantino eagerly wanted to expand the cash-cow tournament beyond its current 32-team format, and has secured support from FIFA’s powerful Council for a larger competition in 2026.
The council has endorsed a format of 16 groups, each with three teams.
“To play in groups by three is not recommendable,” Blatter said. “One team is always a spectator.”
When a nation has no chance of moving on, “arrangements… could be done,” Blatter continued.
Blatter’s FIFA tenure ended in spectacular disgrace, after US prosecutors opened corruption probes against dozens of his top allies in world football.
He remains the target of an investigation in his native Switzerland over criminal mismanagement.


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 23 May 2018
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • “He’s fine, he’s ready to go,” says team coach Mickey Arthur

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.