Taxi for Platini, you have to say. We have known ever since the day in June when Sepp Blatter – recalcitrant and unapologetic to the bitter end – told us he would be stepping down as Fifa president that the FBI or the Swiss Attorney General would soon have their hands on his collar. It was simply a matter of which. But it looks like Platini is going all the way down with him.
What sullied the stinking reputation of football administration most was not the Swiss stating their suspicion that Blatter has criminally misappropriated funds but that Platini, his long-time minion and one-time “football adviser” was suspected of being a recipient of more than £1.5m of them.
The cash was in return for services rendered between 1999 and 2002, yet it wasn’t paid until 2011, say the Swiss. Nine years is a very long time to wait for a million. There were some very big questions floating around last night and there was the most deafening silence from Platini and his entourage.
That’s how it’s been all these months. Platini wants to succeed Blatter – and is favourite to do so – yet has nothing to say about the alleged cesspit of backhanders, bungs and offshore accounts, which the governing body has drowned in, on Blatter’s watch.
I was taken with the reporting of Rob Harris of the Associated Press (AP), who observed Platini at close quarters during Uefa’s week-long gathering in Malta a few weeks back. Platini exuded all the ex-footballer nonchalance, parading around in red kit with his name on the back. He later lounged poolside in T-shirt and shorts, sipping coffee with Uefa colleagues, shaded from the late summer heat.
And, as Harris observed, he left it to his minion Gianni Infantino – yet again – to handle every awkward question about beleaguered, corrupt Fifa.
Regardless of how the Frenchman explains the €2m of Blatter money he trousered so belatedly, the impression left behind is one that weakens yet more his fragile credibility as the man to lead football.
That candidacy was already tarnished by his support for Qatar’s bid for the World Cup in 2022.
He insists that his vote was “for the good of football” yet there has never been a denial from him that in November 2010, 10 days before Qatar was chosen, he attended a lunch at the Elysée Palace with Qatar’s Prime Minister, its Crown Prince and Nicolas Sarkozy, then President of France. It was the following year that Qatar Sports Investments, a state-owned firm, bought Paris Saint-Germain, Sarkozy’s favoured team, and that Platini’s son became the boss of Burrda, a Qatari-owned sports-kit company.
It should be incumbent on a new Fifa president to dispel suggestions that the 2022 World Cup was bought by bribing executive committee members by a reopening of the Qatar bidding. No sign of such an offer from Platini. Only obsequious words about Blatter’s forced exit – “a difficult decision, a brave decision” – which reinforced the impression that a new Fifa needs incalculably more moral fibre than this.
When asked by AP on Thursday to discuss his plans to replace Blatter, meaninglessness poured forth from Platini. Utterances such as: “A good Fifa is like a good referee. Nobody speaks about it.” Details? None.
When he said in the same interview, “Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good,” a smile played across his face. It was hard to imagine he was wearing one last night.Reuse content