European football boss faces up to challenges


Michel Platini, the new president of the European football association Uefa, tells swissinfo how he plans to tackle some of the key issues affecting the game.

This content was published on March 7, 2007 minutes

The former French team captain talks about how violence and scandals are affecting the sport, and the need to give football back its values. He also looks forward to the Euro 2008 championships, being jointly hosted by Switzerland and Austria.

Platini, one of the most famous footballers in the 1980s, considers how to improve relations with football's world governing body Fifa. He used to be a personal advisor to Sepp Blatter, the Swiss head of Fifa.

Delegates elected Platini for a four-year mandate at a meeting earlier this year. Uefa is based in the town of Nyon in western Switzerland.

swissinfo: How are you finding the new job and settling in to Switzerland?

Michel Platini: It is working out well. I am settling in and I'm getting to know the people and the organisation. I'm laying the work foundations and believe me, there's plenty to do. Since large sums of money from television rights came into football about 15 years ago, the sport has gone all over the place.

swissinfo: What are your main concerns?

M.P.: Young businessmen have taken over the sport. As a former player and someone who really loves football, I don't want these people to take football hostage and "sell" it as they would a consumer product. I don't want business to corrupt football and the game to self-destruct.

My ambition is to give football back its values and the means to self-regulate. I am perhaps a bit of a romantic, but I believe that it is still possible to maintain and organise football for our children and our grandchildren.

swissinfo: Do you see yourself as a unifying force?

M.P.: Yes, because it's necessary to once again bring the footballing family back together to find solutions to our problems. It should not be that infighting ends up in the courts.

I'm notably going to work on trying to get closer to all the national federations, but also to Fifa and its president Sepp Blatter. I was his personal advisor and therefore share most of his views.

This doesn't mean, however, that we don't need the support of the justice authorities, the police and politicians to help us get rid of the scourges currently affecting football. I'm thinking here of violence, racism, doping or questionable financial transactions linked to betting and certain transfers.

swissinfo: One of the next most important events for Uefa is Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria. Are you worried about the seeming lack of enthusiasm?

M.P.: Not at all. In France in 1998, enthusiasm for the World Cup started ten days before the opening match, and I know what I'm talking about here. There's still one year to go...

We gave Euro 2008 to Switzerland and Austria because we thought they were able to organise the event and make it a real public celebration.

swissinfo, based on an interview in French by Mathias Froidevaux

Michel Platini

Michel Platini, 51 years old, is of Italian descent but grew up in France. He was one of the most famous footballers of his time.

Platini was part of the French team that won the 1984 European Championship, a tournament in which he was the best player and top goalscorer. He retired in 1987.

He was the French team coach for four years, and was the co-organiser of the 1998 World Cup in France. He has worked for Fifa and has been vice-president of the French Football Association.

Michel Platini was elected as president of Uefa in January, beating the incumbent Swede Lennart Johansson. He has a four-year mandate.

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