KEIR RADNEDGE in PARIS —- Michel Platini will be the ghost at the football feast in the Stade de France in Saint-Denis when the French hosts face Portugal in the final of the 2016 European Championship.
Platini was banned from football last December for accepting a ‘disloyal payment’ from world federation FIFA. He has been invited by UEFA as a private individual but is not expected to attend the climax of a tournament in whose French hosting he took great personal pride.
The 61-year-old Frenchman, captain and inspiration and nine-goal leading scorer of the France team who won on home soil in 1984, remains titular president of the European federation pending the election of a successor in September.
One man considering whether to lodge a candidacy by the July 20 deadline is Angel Maria Villar who led tributes to Platini ahead of the final. The veteran president of the Spanish federation is a long-serving vice-president of both FIFA and UEFA and will be presenting the trophy to the winning captain.
Villar, addressing a news conference at which he thanked everyone who had made Euro 2016 a success from volunteers to officials to players to the media, concluded: “This long list of ‘thank yous’ would not be complete without mentioning the tournament’s one major absentee.
‘One man’s legacy’
“France’s hosting of UEFA Euro 2016 is down to one man: Michel Platini. I’m sure the French people know that. Michel can be proud – very proud – of his Euro. He is in all of our thoughts today and we are grateful to him.”
Platini’s legacy was also acknowledged by acting general secretary Theodore Theodoridis, who said: “Without his vision and very strong support for five years this tournament could never have been such a success.”
Theodoridis did not expect Platini to attend the final although there had been an open invitation for the suspended president to attend the entire tournament.
He said: “Until now Michel Platini has not shown an interest and, according to our knowledge, will not be coming to the final. I hope he changes his mind and will here on Sunday to celebrate the ending of this tournament.”
No mention was volunteered of the work undertaken for the tournament by Gianni Infantino, who had been UEFA’s general secretary until his election as president of world federation FIFA this past February.
Theodoridis insisted this merely accidental and he and UEFA were looking forward to Infantino’s presence as a guest at the final.
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