Skeleton in Michel Platini's closet?

2015-07-31 15:07
Michel Platini (AFP)
Former playing legend and president of UEFA, Michel Platini, now the strong frontrunner to replace Sepp Blatter as the head of FIFA, has unlike the outgoing besieged president had little influence or connection with South African soccer.

Perhaps the most publicised link of the 60-year-old French football doyen with this country emerged when he was in South Africa for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and he was rushed to the Morningside Medi-Clinic after collapsing at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton following a suspected heart attack.

It was later diagnosed as no more than a severe bout of flu and to substantiate this Platini attended the final in which Spain beat the Netherlands at FNB Stadium a mere three days later.

What, however, has tended to inflict heart attacks on millions of soccer fans round the world is the dogged, dinosaur-like opposition of the great former midfielder and three-time "Europe Footballer of the Year" to the use of technology as a means of ridding the game of the plethora of refereeing mistakes that continue to blight the sport.

Why Platini has till now even opposed basic goalline technology that could have avoided the many embarrassments, most notable those at the 1966 and 2010 World Cups, had it been in force before belatedly being implemented by FIFA before the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

It has been suggested that the UEFA president is softening his attitude to goalline technology and might allow it to be utilised at the 2016 European Championships, but  if this is true, Platini has not as much as given an inkling that he supports the use of technology in matters like brazen and dangerous foul play, off-sides and controversial penalty kicks that would result in soccer keeping abreast with other progressive sports like tennis, rugby and cricket in these matters.

The technology issue is Platini's achilles heel in his bid for the FIFA presidency - unless he makes a political turnaround in order to enhance his prospects of election to head world soccer's controlling body The skeleton in his closet is his close link with the vilified Blatter for many years before the current  bribery scandal broke - even if Platini did a somersault at the death and was among the first to suggest the FIFA president should step down after his tenure had clearly become untenable.

South Korean billionaire Chung Mong-joon, a former member of the FIFA executive who has now intimated he is considering making himself a candidate in the presidential elections in February, says he finds Platini totally unacceptable if the organisation is to implement genuine reform.

He says the Frenchman, while not himself a party to the corruption within FIFA, has been too close to the Blatter mafia to implement a genuine transformation - and Mong-joon makes no secret of what he thinks of the outgoing regime.

"Blatter," he says while pulling no punches, "is like a cannibal eating his parents and then crying he is an orphan."

Similarly opposed to Platini is Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan, who courageously opposed Blatter in the recent FIFA elections and made his feelings known before the entrenched regime began to crumble.

"In the same way I will oppose Platini and make myself available in the presidential elections," he has reiterated.

But if these are the cons that stand in the way of Platini becoming the next president of FIFA, there are significant and varied pros as well.

His history as a player leaves nothing to the imagination as to his knowledge of the technical aspects of the game and becoming what he calls "a player's president."

He is also credited that in his role of UEFA president since 2007, he has played a major role in making the European organisation an omnipotent giant on the world soccer stage.

Platini is both a major celebrity and recognisable personality in soccer circles worldwide, unlike some of his rivals who are unfamiliar to the average fan in the street. What is more, he also has a large bloc of already committed support.

But these are early days yet and who knows what names might still enter the battle.

The Brazilian Confederation, for example, have come out with  a statement that they will be supporting Zico, their own former legend, in the presidency race.

As for South Africa, the country can expect a fair deal from Platini, "The Player's President", even though there might not be the special relationship that has been enjoyed with Blatter at the helm.

But if Platini is elected as the next FIFA president and does not change his stance on systematically introducing technology to eliminate as far as possible the glaring, if sometimes excusable mistakes that are made by referees, all will suffer.

Read more on:    fifa  |  michel platini  |  soccer

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