Paris: Suspended UEFA chief Michel Platini vowed to clear his name of sleaze allegations and slammed outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter as he pulled out of the race to lead football’s world body.
Platini told French sports newspaper L’Equipe that he would concentrate on fighting his eight-year ban from football, as he abandoned his bid to contest the FIFA election on February 26.
“I will not present myself for the presidency of FIFA. I am withdrawing my candidature,” he said, in an interview to be published in full on Friday.
“I no longer have the time nor the means to go to the voters, to meet people, to fight against the other candidates.
“In withdrawing, I am dedicating myself to my defence.”
Platini and Blatter were suspended for eight years by FIFA’s ethics committee over a $2 million payment made to Platini in 2011 for work carried out between 1999 and 2002.
The 60-year-old Platini said his ban has made it impossible for him to put together a campaign to take on the sport’s most powerful job.
“It is a question of the calendar, but not only that. How can you win an election when you are prevented from campaigning?” he said.
Platini laid the blame for his plight squarely at the door of Blatter, 79, claiming that the veteran Swiss wanted his “scalp”.
“Everything started because of Blatter, who wanted my head, who did not want me to go to (lead) FIFA,” Platini was quoted as saying.
“He said often that I would be his final scalp, but he fell at the same time as me.”
– ‘How did we get to this?’ –
Platini said he will concentrate his resources on an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the FIFA electoral commission which “claimed that I had falsified accounts”.
The Frenchman said: “I have fought like I have always fought in my life but I have not been given the opportunity to compete this time round.”
Platini’s decision to give up on his dream of becoming FIFA president leaves five declared candidates.
They are: Asian football head Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, South African politician and tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, former FIFA vice-president Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, and Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA assistant general secretary from France.
Platini, a FIFA vice-president, and Blatter were banned from all football-related acivities by FIFA’s ethics committee on December 21.
Platini insisted there was nothing illegal in his oral contract he said was agreed with Blatter. The salary agreement was however never disclosed in FIFA documentation until the payment was made in 2011.
“I’m struggling to understand. Why? How did we get to this? I did some work, I asked to be paid, I sent an invoice, I was paid, I paid my taxes on that. That was in 2011,” he told AFP when the ban was announced.
“There was a debt that was settled, full stop! Then, in 2015, the Swiss court wanted more information.
“Then it took off at FIFA and a lot of people at FIFA are happy that this issue happened.
“And here I am, suspended from all football-related activity for eight years.”
Platini repeated his suspicions that the timing of the ban was a deliberate attempt to prevent him from standing in February’s election.
“What was the FIFA ethics committee doing between 2011 when I was paid and 2015? Was it sleeping? Suddenly it wakes up,” he scoffed.
“Ah yes, it wakes up in a FIFA election year when I’m a candidate. It’s amazing!”
Later Thursday, UEFA said in a statement emailed to AFP that it “continues to support the right of Michel Platini to due process and the opportunity to clear his name”.