Soccer

Platini may influence elections

2011-03-23 21:22
Michel Platini (File)
Paris - UEFA President Michel Platini acknowledges he can play a central role in the FIFA leadership election between his "two friends" Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam.

However, Platini will consult UEFA colleagues before deciding if he should advise European voters to support Blatter or bin Hammam, the Qatari who leads the Asian Football Confederation.

"I am in the middle of all the problems," a smiling Platini told the Associated Press after closing the congress of Europe's 53 football nations, which unanimously re-elected him president for four more years on Tuesday.

"(Problems) with the clubs, the leagues, the players, FIFA, all the confederations, bin Hammam, Blatter. Like when I played football, I was on the middle of the field, it was the same," said the former France great.

Paris - UEFA President Michel Platini acknowledges he can play a central role in the FIFA leadership election between his "two friends" Sepp Blatter and Mohamed Bin Hammam.

However, Platini will consult UEFA colleagues before deciding if he should advise European voters to support Blatter or Bin Hammam, the Qatari who leads the Asian Football Confederation.

"I am in the middle of all the problems," a smiling Platini told the Associated Press after closing the congress of Europe's 53 football nations, which unanimously re-elected him president for four more years on Tuesday.

"(Problems) with the clubs, the leagues, the players, FIFA, all the confederations, Bin Hammam, Blatter. Like when I played football, I was on the middle of the field, it was the same," said the former France great.

On the eve of the meeting, Bin Hammam brought Platini - his fellow FIFA vice president - into the middle of the fray.

Bin Hammam revealed he would seek a deal in exchange for essential European backing to help end Blatter's 13-year reign. One option would be serving a single term before standing aside for Platini's expected candidacy in 2015.

Platini said he would talk with his 16-member UEFA executive panel before the June 1 poll of FIFA's 208 national associations in Zurich. Europe's 53 votes is the biggest continental share.

"Perhaps (Bin Hammam) thinks I can influence many, many, many votes. I am not the owner of the votes. I have to consult. I have to see with people who are more diplomats than me," he said.

The AP spoke to European football officials at the UEFA gathering and found little enthusiasm for the change that Bin Hammam says he represents. Some said they did not yet know the Qatari, who has served 15 years on FIFA's ruling panel and was key to his country winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

"It's not complicated for them perhaps," Platini said of the choice facing UEFA's members, "but it's complicated to have a position. You ask me to have a position between two colleagues, two friends."

Platini recalled that he and Bin Hammam campaigned to help Blatter defeat then-UEFA leader Lennart Johansson in the 1998 FIFA election.

"I am friends with Bin Hammam, too. We were with Blatter, to fight to put Blatter at the head of FIFA," Platini said. "I know Mohamed, I know Sepp. If I am alone it is easy (to make a choice), but I am not alone - I am the president of UEFA."

Blatter, who rewarded Platini 13 years ago by appointing him as a special adviser, seeks a fourth presidential term.

The 75-year-old Swiss and Bin Hammam need two-thirds of recorded votes to win on the first ballot, and an absolute majority if a second ballot is required.

Platini's range of political skills were shown last month when he warned the presidents of Serbia and Croatia that their national and club teams faced expulsion from UEFA competitions because of fans' violence.

Both heads of state were asked to help enact laws curbing hooliganism within one year, and Platini said UEFA would target other countries to act.

"The only way to defend football is to put big pressure on the political people," he said, defending clubs because "they're not policeman, or judges."

"If I don't put the (sword) in the heart of the country," he said, acting out a thrust with his right hand, "they will never help the national association or the clubs to play. I have to say, 'You can help the clubs. Stop with all this hooliganism.' Every time they leave the country, they destroy the city. Stop. Finish."

Platini said finding agreement between clubs, leagues and FIFA over the conflicting demands of domestic and international fixture lists was another priority.

"For the Premier League, for Italian football, for UEFA and FIFA, the international calendar is the most important thing," he said.

Platini already is involved in difficult ongoing talks between Europe's clubs and FIFA over how many times players are taken from their clubs, who pay them, in order to fulfill national team duty.

UEFA organises the increasingly popular and profitable Champions League, and Platini recognised its potential to affect the World Cup's status.

"Because I am the boss of UEFA to organise these competitions, I can say it is perhaps time to promote the football of the national associations in a better way than today," he said.

Such moves while at UEFA could help ease a transition to become FIFA president in 2015, which is increasingly talked about in football circles as if inevitable.

However, Platini says "sometimes it is more important for football to be the head of UEFA than the head of FIFA."

Read more on:    fifa elections
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