ZURICH: FIFA president Gianni Infantino is running unopposed in his bid for a second term as the head of world football’s governing body, but that does not mean everyone approves of his job performance.
Least of all his predecessor, Sepp Blatter, who led FIFA from 1998 to 2015, when he was forced out in disgrace amid a global corruption scandal.
“I want to sue him,” Blatter said of Infantino, the man he blames for a host of offences – both personal and in his stewardship of FIFA, where Blatter worked for 41 years.
In an interview with AFP, Blatter accused Infantino and FIFA of failing to return personal items that he left in his old office and of unfairly implicating him in financial misconduct.
Blatter said he wants an admission that he has been “hurt” by FIFA.
“Both me and my family, my entire entourage, by saying that this guy was using (FIFA) like a piggybank. This is a question of honour,” Blatter said.
Blatter, who like Infantino is a Swiss national, remains the target of a criminal investigation in Switzerland, but the case has not yet come to court after nearly four years of investigation.
Blatter particularly disputes allegations by FIFA that he received a 12 million Swiss franc (US$12 million) bonus following the 2014 World Cup.
He said his suit against FIFA and Infantino would be filed “before the end of the month.”
The Swiss case against Blatter has been clouded in recent weeks by the opening of a disciplinary investigation targeting the man leading the probe, the country’s attorney general Michael Lauber.
Lauber has reportedly met Infantino informally three times, which raised eyebrows because FIFA is directly implicated in the Swiss investigation.
The meetings between Lauber and Infantino were set up by Rinaldo Arnold, a prosecutor in the southern Swiss canton of Valais and a childhood friend of the current FIFA president.
Blatter said the relationship between Arnold and Infantino was “a major question mark.”
After Lauber’s first two meetings with Infantino came to light, he told an oversight body that there were no other meetings.
Then, weeks later, Swiss media reported a third meeting, which triggered the disciplinary probe.
“It’s general amnesia in Switzerland,” Blatter said regarding the apparent lapses in the attorney general’s account, describing the entire ordeal as “curious.”
Turning to the governance of world football, Blatter accused Infantino of conducting himself with “a lack of transparency,” especially concerning plans to expand the World Cup to 48 teams.
“This is what (Infantino) was preaching, to be the man of transparency. But it is not enough to look transparent,” Blatter said.
FIFA has confirmed the tournament will expand from 32 to 48 for the World Cup the North America World Cup in 2026, but a tentative plan to enlarge Qatar 22 has been scrapped.