Banished from soccer's ruling body for eight years for unethical conduct, Sepp Blatter won't give up the presidency of his beloved FIFA without a fight.
"I will fight. I will fight until the end," Blatter said Monday at a news conference that started 90 minutes after he and former protégé Michel Platini were banned by FIFA's ethics committee.
It was a stunning removal of world soccer's most powerful leaders over a $2 million payment by FIFA to Platini, the president of European soccer's ruling body UEFA. The payment is also the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland.
"I'm sad. It can't go on this way. It's not possible," said the 79-year-old Blatter, who has spent more than half his life working for soccer's scandal-hit governing body. "After 40 years, it can't happen this way. I'm fighting to restore my rights."
The elected FIFA president and his longtime likely successor were kicked out of the sport just two months before 209 member federations elect a new leader.
Platini, a FIFA vice president whose bid to succeed Blatter on Feb. 26 now looks over, described the proceedings as a "true mockery."
Their offenses were judged to be conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA. They avoided life bans because corruption was not proved.
Guilty verdicts were expected. So were the subsequent denials of wrongdoing and promises of urgent appeals to FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"I am not ashamed," Blatter said. "I am sorry that I am a punching ball. I am sorry for football. … I am now suspended eight years, suspended eight years. Suspended eight years for what?"
Platini was also dismissive of the ethics commission's work.
He said its proceedings, which included a hearing earlier this month that he did not attend, had been "orchestrated … by governing bodies that I know well" to tarnish him.
"I'm convinced that my fate was sealed before the Dec. 18 hearing and that this decision is just a pathetic maneuver to hide a true will of taking me out of the football world,"
Athletes of the year
AP names finalists
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, NBA MVP Stephen Curry and Masters and U.S. Open champ Jordan Spieth are the leading candidates for the Associated Press 2015 Male Athlete of the Year award.
The AP announced the top three vote-getters Monday, and the winner will be announced Saturday.
U.S. soccer hero Carli Lloyd, UFC star Ronda Rousey and three-time winner Serena Williams are the female candidates. The winner will be announced Friday.
O'Neal, Iverson among candidates
Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming are among the first-time candidates on the ballot for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and former women's star Sheryl Swoopes are also among the candidates announced for the class of 2016. The finalists will be announced on Feb. 12 during the NBA's All-Star weekend, and those being enshrined will be unveiled April 4 in Houston before the NCAA championship game.
around the horn
Wade Boggs' number 26 will be retired by the Boston Red Sox. … The Pirates added Kyle Lobstein to the mix of starting pitchers looking for a rotation spot next season, acquiring the lefthander from the Tigers for cash. … Righthanded reliever Adam Ottavino agreed to a $10.4 million, three-year contract with the Rockies.
Golf: Lee Westwood, who tied for second two weeks ago in the Thailand Golf Championship, will move up one spot to No. 50 next week in the final world ranking of the year, assuring him a place in the Masters field at Augusta National in April. Chris Kirk, who will fall to No. 51, already is in the Masters from winning Colonial.