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CRIME

Swiss ex-FIFA boss Blatter ‘not afraid’ of going to trial

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says he will continue fighting fraud allegations, and does not fear his case possibly going to trial, he told a Swiss weekly in an interview published on Sunday.

Swiss ex-FIFA boss Blatter 'not afraid' of going to trial
Former president of World football's governing body FIFA, Sepp Blatter, leaves the building of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland with his lawyer (unseen) to attend a hearing in Zurich, on August 9 2021. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Former world football chief Blatter, 85, faced four days of questioning by a federal prosecutor earlier this month in a long-running probe into a suspected fraudulent payment a decade ago.

READ ALSO: Former FIFA chief Blatter faces final hearing in Switzerland in payment probe

READ ALSO: Swiss expand probe of ex-FIFA president Blatter

In the case that shook world sport, Blatter is being investigated over a two million Swiss franc ($2.2 million, 1.85 million euro) payment to Michel Platini in 2011, who was then in charge of European football’s governing body UEFA.

Blatter was forced to stand down as FIFA president in 2015 and was banned by FIFA for eight years, later reduced to six, over ethics breaches for authorising what prosecutors termed a “disloyal payment”.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland, which has said Blatter faces “suspicion of fraud, breach of trust and unfaithful business management,” has yet to announce whether it will indict him or dismiss the case.

Blatter, who has always maintained the payment to Platini was above board, told the Le Matin Dimanche weekly he was not worried.

“I am not afraid of a trial,” he said in the interview, published on Sunday, adding that he had heard from a number of lawyers that the case against him was not credible.

In a statement issued before the hearing with the prosecutor began earlier this month, Blatter reiterated that the payment had been “based on an oral contract that regulated Platini’s advisory activities for FIFA between 1998 and 2002.”

“The payment was delayed because FIFA was initially unable to pay out the entire amount — and Platini only made the claim in 2010.”

Blatter, who spent two months in hospital in December and January after undergoing heart surgery, acknowledged though that he remained weak and could not undertake a trial immediately.

“Physically, I am not yet ready,” he told Le Matin Dimanche.

He said doctors had written him off twice while in hospital, saying there was nothing more they could do for him, but he held on.

“Now I want to continue fighting.”

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SPORT

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

Hundreds of runners braved a lung-busting ascent into the Alps in Switzerland's Glacier 3000 Run on Saturday, albeit on a shortened course due to summer heatwaves melting the ice.

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

The event’s 14th edition was back without limitations after being cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 and run in 2021 with restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

The race is normally run over 26.2 kilometres but was contested on a slightly modified 25.2km course this year due to the glacier melting, with the last pass over its surface shortened.

Runners make their way under a ski lift  on the glacier run in Switzerland

Runners make their way under a ski lift during the last kilometres of the Glacier 3000 run. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

“The accelerated melting of the top layer of the glacier has created a camber and a soft layer which the runner sinks into,” said race director Oliver Hermann.

“Rather than intervening to flatten the track, we preferred to deviate the course.”

Runners on last stretch of Switzerland's glacier run

On the final stretch of this year’s shortened course. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

The finish line is 1,886 metres higher than the start, at nearly 3,000 metres up in the mountains by the Scex Rouge peak.

READ ALSO: Heatwaves close off classic Swiss and Italian Alpine hiking routes

The route begins in the jet-set ski resort town of Gstaad, at 1,050 metres above sea level.

It passes through forests, green mountain pastures before heading into rocky lunar-like landscapes and taking in the Tsanfleuron Glacier.

The course follows the Saane river upstream for 15 km before climbing up 1,800 metres over the remaining 10 km to the finish line — at an altitude of 2,936 metres.

A couple hold their hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets

A couple hold hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets, where the Glacier 3000 Run took place on August 6th. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

Some 311 men and 98 women completed the individual course, while 50 two-person teams also took part.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

The first man to finish was Kenyan competitor Geoffrey Ndungu in two hours and 17 minutes. He had finished in second place last year.

He was followed by compatriot Abraham Ebenyo Ekwam in 2:21 and then Switzerland’s Jonathan Schmid in 2:23.

Victoria Kreuzer was the first woman to finish, in 2:46, ahead of Nicole Schindler and Pascale Rebsamen — a Swiss clean sweep.

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