Platini tries to limit Fifa damage amid 'some strange days'
A week ago Michel Platini was favourite to be the next-but-one president of Fifa. Uefa, the confederation of which he is president, had promised to deliver its 53 votes (aside from the Football Association, which will abstain) to the incumbent Sepp Blatter on the understanding that he would ease the passage for Platini to succeed him in 2015.
Now, as allegation and counter-allegation swirl round the corridors of Fifa's Swiss HQ, all bets are off. Platini could emerge as the "clean hands" candidate and be elected next week; the election may be delayed; or Blatter might, as when challenged by Michael Zen-Ruffinen, Fifa's then general secretary, in 2002, confound his critics, outwit his opponents, and retain his position. Whatever the outcome Platini, who has become skilled at negotiating football politics, was careful not to damage his own position yesterday.
The Frenchman described the decision by Fifa's ethics committee to investigate Blatter as well as his challenger, Mohamed bin Hammam, as a "very interesting moment".
Platini, who is himself a member of Fifa's executive committee, and a vice-president, said: "Football is wonderful, it is thousands of beautiful things, it is the most beautiful and popular game in the world, our children play every day, but we have some problems. We have this small problem and we have to resolve this problem. We have some strange days now, these next days because of that, and we have elections."
Asked if the elections may be suspended he said: "I think we will have elections. To not have elections, three-quarters of the assembly have to say, 'No elections'." I will go to Zurich after the Champions League final and know better in two days.
Asked if Fifa was corrupt he was circumspect, responding: "I don't know, let's [see] the evidence. Football is the most beautiful and popular game in the world and we have to resolve these problems. It is not only a fight in football. Football is a mirror for the society, you have good guys and you have bad guys, what happens in football can happen in every part of the society."
Platini was much more certain when asked if he had ever been bribed, as nine of the 24 ExCo members now stand accused of being. "Don't joke, never, never," he said. "You know the people who are corrupt, they know who can be corruptible. They know I am incorruptible."
The charges against Bin Hammam, that he sought to bribe voters ahead of this week's election, have inevitably cast further doubt on the methods used by Qatar – whose bid he masterminded – to win hosting of the 2022 World Cup. Accusations that two ExCo members, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma, were bribed by Qatar were made recently under parliamentary privilege during the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's Select Committee's investigation into football governance.
Platini voted for Qatar. It has been alleged he did under pressure from the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who wanted to boost Franco-Qatari trade, notably a contract to deliver Airbus 380s for Qatar Airways.
Platini insisted he voted for Qatar because he thought it was right to take the World Cup to a new region, but he repeated his suggestion that the tournament should be held not in summer, which he voted for, but in winter, so fans could enjoy the event more comfortably. Qatar says the event will take place as planned, in the 50 degree heat of summer, in air-conditioned stadiums.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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