Michel Platini, head of European football’s governing body UEFA, has officially pulled out of the race to become the next President of FIFA. He is being investigated for a suspect CHF2 million ($2.08 million) payment from FIFA and is currently banned from football for eight years.
"I'm withdrawing from the race for FIFA presidency," Platini told the Associated Press on Thursday. "The timing is not good for me. I don't have the means to fight on equal terms with the other candidates. I have not been given the chance to play the game. Bye bye FIFA, bye bye FIFA presidency."
Last month, Platini’s hopes of succeeding the outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter were seriously dented when FIFA’s ethics court handed the same ban for both him and Blatter. The tribunal did not believe statements from the pair that the CHF2 million was a legitimate payment for consultancy work that had been arranged as a gentlemen’s agreement.
The payment aroused suspicions because it was transferred to Platini in 2011, several years after his alleged work was completed and at the same time that Platini stepped aside to let Blatter run for a fourth term as President. Switzerland’s Attorney General first uncovered the payment in September and has initiated criminal proceedings.
Both Platini and Blatter deny any wrongdoing and intend to appeal to FIFA’s ethics court and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). But Platini has also conceded to French sports daily L'Equipe that he has run out of time in his bid to clear his name in time for the January 26 deadline for having his FIFA presidential candidacy accepted.
The FIFA presidential election will take place on February 26 when it will be decided who replaces Blatter, who stepped down last summer weeks after being elected for a fifth term.
"I've done what I needed to do. I have nothing to reproach myself with,” Platini told AP. “I think they are making me pay for being UEFA president, I think the Zurich administration does not wish someone from UEFA to head FIFA. Because we are beautiful, we are big, we are rich, and we are the strongest."
swissinfo.ch and agencies