KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- After Sepp Blatter’s muddled and befuddled rage against the dying of his FIFA light, it is now the turn of Michel Platini.
The French president of UEFA, having demonstrably proved himself incapable of keeping track of his own millions, has nevertheless declared himself the right man to take care of FIFA’s billions.
Blatter had delivered his latest delusional rant in terms designed to maintain his loving relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the one country to which he dare travel beyond his extradition-defying safety of Switzerland.
Platini responded at similar discursive length to Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger.
The man who has never dared face the media with a manifesto for his quest for the FIFA presidency, demanded that he still be trusted to take the world football federation on a giant step into the unknown.
Platini is serving a 90-day provisional suspension imposed by FIFA’s ethics committee pending the outcome of an investigation into his acceptance in 2011 of what Swiss police describe as a ‘disloyal payment’ from FIFA on Blatter’s authority.
He submitted his papers for the presidential election for next February 26 before the suspension was ordered and, if he clears his name, may be admitted to the election (presumably replacing UEFA’s ‘stalking horse’ candidate, Gianni Infantino).
Like Blatter he insisted he was being treated unfairly, thus “I am neither in prison nor in Siberia. I’m waiting to see how things evolve.” However he was determined to go to every court possible to defend himself.
He reiterated the tale about the SFr2m payment for work as Blatter’s FIFA’s counsellor between 1999 and 2002, all based on a verbal contract. Yet again he failed to explain why he waited nine years before claiming the money.
He added: “I do not understand why I am suspended. I have not been accused of anything based on some tangible or legitimate fact. There is talk of a conflict of interest but I was not a member of FIFA when the president offered a contract and a salary which I accepted.”
Platini did not believe that the affair undermined his right to be a president of FIFA. As president he would be supported by accountancy experts.
“Primarily,” he said, “the new president has to be a reformer and address fundamental problems such as matchfix betting scams, the transfer system and third-party ownership. At UEFA, I have proved in the past eight years that I am able to lead an international organisation.”
He countered claims of having obstructed FIFA reform by pointing to his record at UEFA in which he had widened Champions League access to clubs from smaller nations and introduced financial fair play to enforce a debt reduction within the club game.
Platini added: “At FIFA I would push key dossiers such as the regulation of transfers and the problem of TPO. Just as in UEFA, I would would ensure greater democratic participation among the organisation’s leadership.
“In the FIFA executive committee I would welcome representatives of the players and the clubs. I want to finish with all past practices. I welcome reform proposals to clarify the role of the executive committee and to separate politics from the operational area.”
Platini blamed Blatter’s broken promise not to step down in 2015 as the reason for the breakdown in the relationship[ between the two of them though he conceded that “FIFA and UEFA are natural antagonists.”
The electoral committee has stated that, while suspended, Platini cannot not be admitted to the FIFA election race as a candidate.
However he felt as if he were a “full candidate” – and more than that.
Platini said: “I feel like a knight from the Middle Ages, standing into front of a fortress. I’m trying to get in to the football castle but instead they pour boiling oil on my head.”
Next Platini turned to the controversy over the 2018-2022 World Cup bid process and denied having promised his vote, initially, to the United States. He added: “I have always admired how Americans organize big events. I’m a big fan of the US. But the candidacy of Qatar brought a uniqueness and an opening to the world that I felt from the beginning as wonderful.
“The Arab world has never organized a World Cup. For the development of football, it was important to give it that chance. I am the only person who has said publicly that I voted for Qatar because but I have always preferred transparency to secrecy.
“I regret nothing. Even though it has cost me massively, I will continue to be transparent. Football deserves this transparency.”
He did not believe the US authorities’ FIFAGate investigation was fuelled by revenge at not landing the 2022 World Cup. Platini said: “The American authorities are simply tackling corruption problems in football. You can only congratulate them for this.”
Confirmation followed that Infantino’s role in the FIFA presidential election was directly on Platini’s behalf.
He said: “UEFA had to present a Plan B alternative. I know the qualities of Gianni. We have worked hand in hand for nine years. On the day I am cleared then the executive committee, Gianni and I will sit down together to discuss the situation and choose the best solution for the game.”
However Platini was still as determined as ever to pursue the FIFA presidency.
“People want to stop me standing,” he said, “because they know that I have every chance to win. I have the impression that they do not want a former player to lead FIFA.
“But I am the only candidate with such a broad view of the game. I was a player, French national coach, World Cup organiser and now head of the most powerful confederation. I followed that path honestly.
“I know all the families of football, the sensitivities and fears of each individual. In all modesty, I am the most suitable candidate to lead world football.”
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