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