UEFA President, Michel Platini formally announced his FIFA presidential bid on Wednesday with grand claim that he would restore the dignity of the world football governing body. But many are still asking the hard question: is the Platini really the right candidate to succeed Blatter and cleanse Fifa?
Platini’s Restoration Agenda:
Michel Platini took the first bold step towards occupying the most powerful post in the global football when he wrote to all 209 member associations of FIFA declaring his bid to succeed Sepp Blatter as President.
“There are times in life when you have to take your destiny into your own hands. I am at one of those decisive moments, at a juncture in my life and in events that are shaping the future of FIFA”, the 60 year old Frenchman declared in his letter.
“I am counting on your support and our common love of football so that, together, we can give the tens of millions of football fans the FIFA that they want: a FIFA that is exemplary, united and shows solidarity, a FIFA that is respected, liked and of the people,” he adds.
According to him, a Michel Platini presidency will “give FIFA back the dignity and the position it deserves.”
“This was a very personal, carefully considered decision, one in which I weighed up the future of football alongside my own future. I was also guided by the esteem, support and encouragement that many of you have shown me”, he adds.
Platini who has held sway as UEFA president since 2007, however, expressed dissatisfaction that FIFA has had only two presidents in the last half-century, promising a change. “This extreme stability is something of a paradox in a world that has experienced radical upheavals and in a sport that has undergone considerable economic change. However, recent events force the supreme governing body of world football to turn over a new leaf and rethink its governance,” he argues.
The former three-time Ballon d’Or winner also promises to use his transformational leadership in UEFA to reposition FIFA if elected president on February 26, 2016. “I have brought Europe together on a unifying path. I gave all the national associations – big and small – the place they deserved. Now, I aspire to do the same at world level, to offer all national associations a common cause,” he pledged.
Michel François Platini, born 21 June 1955, is a former French football player and manager as well as the president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) since January 26,2007. As a player, Platini won three Ballon d’Or titles in the mid 1980s as well as a European Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup with Juventus. The former Nancy and Saint-Etienne midfielder, famous for his ability to score from free-kicks, also won league titles in France and Italy. He also helped France to European Championship success in 1984 and third place at the 1986 World Cup.
Just as he did on July 29, Platini confirmed that he would run for the UEFA presidency in July 2006 before beating the incumbent candidate, Lennart Johansson in the election in Düsseldorf on 26 January 2007.
Since he became UEFA president, Platini has unleashed a raft of reforms in European football, some of which remained controversial while. Among his controversial reforms is that which seeks to regard international transfer of players under 18 as illegal, describing it as a form of “child trafficking” that should be prohibited by the EU. “Paying a child to kick a ball is not that different from paying a child to work in a factory,” said Platini to members of the EU on 18 February 2009. He recently backed the ‘6+5’ idea, a policy that specifies the introduction of six home-grown players and five foreign players in top-flight teams in Europe.
The French football administrator, however, gained much plaudits for increasing diversity in the Champions League by making it easier for clubs from smaller countries to qualify as well as trying to curb over-spending on players’ wages and transfer fees through his controversial Financial Fair Play (FFP) reforms.
Views from Critics:
Shortly after Platini’s formal declaration of his FIFA presidential bid, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein issued a statement,declaring that the Frenchman is “not good for football and football’s fans and players deserve better”. The Jordanian prince, who was beaten to the post by outgoing president Sepp Blatter in May, argued that the UEFA boss, though widely seen as a favourite candidate to win the post, is not the man to run the sport’s global affairs.
Prince Ali who is already plotting a second straightFIFA presidential bid to run against Platini also declared that the world football governing institution needs a breadth of fresh air. “FIFA is engulfed in scandal. We must stop doing business as usual. The practice of back-room, under-the-table deals must end.What is clear is that FIFA needs new, independent leadership, untainted by the practices of the past,” the 39-year-old and third son of King Hussein of Jordan said.
Just like Prince Ali, Chung Mong-joon, a former Fifa vice-president and a presidential aspirant also thinks Platini would not make a good Fifa president.”It will be very difficult for Mr Platini to have any meaningful reforms. Mr Platini enjoys institutional support from the current structure of Fifa; is very much a product of the current system,” Mr. Chung said.
President of the Liberian Football Association (LFA), Musa Bility is another high profile football figure who has openely criticize Platini’s FIFA presidential aspiration. Bility opinied that Platini would bring “chaos”, “more division” and “more problems” to FIFA rather than his campaign gimmick of restoring its dignity. According to him, Platini “doesn’t represent the change that we all want”.
Platini Campaign Debacle:
Despite his sterling qualities and high vote-scoring chances, analysts say Michel Platini face crucial acid test in his campaign to succeed Blatter. Besides being confronted with the test of deciding on a list of priorities from among so many demanding issues bedeviling FIFA, Mr. Platini carries a personal baggage of criticisms, which if not well handled could derail his bid. Many say, rescuing the image and perception of Fifa is the overriding concern; and can only be achieved through a stern and meticulous confrontation. The question remains, is Platini blessed with the heart to wage war against the demons tormenting FIFA?
Another crucial test awaiting Platini is his past romance with Sepp Blatter. Despite his recent opposition to Blatter, Platini is still widely regarded as an associate of Blatter’s regime. Not only was he a Blatter protege, he has been on Fifa’s tainted executive committee since 2002. As if that is not damaging enough, he admitted recently to having ‘no regrets’ for voting for Qatar to host the World Cup in 2022, a decision which, for many, is symbolic of Fifa’s malaise.
The fact that his son has been employed by a Qatari-owned sports kit manufacturer has also been interpreted in many quarters as evidence that he was part of the gang that influenced the decision to grant Qatar the controversial hosting rights. So, as an old friend of the outgoing Blatter, Platini has a huge task to convince the world that he represents a true break with the discredited old regime; and that he is a man the football stakeholders can trust and that he is not seeking power of FIFA presidency for personalaggrandizement.
Platini would also need to convince Fifa’s World Cup sponsors that he will clean up the organisation’s image and prevent any more scandals which might stain their corporate image by associationwithin the game, too, Platini would need to build bridges. It will be crucial for Platini to ensure, in the run-up to the election, that he can secure enough votes within Europe and central/north America to obtain a clear majority among the world federation’s 209 voting associations.
He knows the prospect of a Platini presidency will not be uniformly welcomed for all his excellent work at Uefa on appealing to the smaller nations, fighting third-party ownership and insisting on greater financial solvency.The most contentious issue is his vote in 2010 in the Fifa executive committee which awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and his subsequent support for a midwinter timing switch, ripping into the heart of the European league season.Unlike some of his colleagues on the Fifa executive committee, however, Platini has not buried his head in the sand and tried to pretend the Fifa crisis was a creation of the western media.
He has acknowledged privately that the “mother house” – as he likes to call Fifa – needs to be rescued from the cul-de-sac into which Blatter has driven it. But turning around and heading back down to the open road is a driving test which will surely demand more than one four-year term of office.
Platini Chances& Opponents:
Regardless of whatever his campaign odds may be, bookmakers have tipped Platini as the candidate to beat for the February 26, 2016 FIFA Presidential election. According to analysts, having secured a verbal support of the four of the six FIFA confederations, including the powerful Asian bloc, Platini has emerged the clear favourite to succeed Blatter.
“With four of the six global football confederations telling Platini they would support his candidacy, he will be very difficult to defeat,” declares Richard Conway, BBC sports analyst.
“Those four confederations count 144 national associations as members.Not all of them will vote for Platini, but a significant number will and that should be enough to get him over the line come 26 February.Securing Asia’s support is the key.Their two power brokers, Shaikh Salman and Sheikh Al-Sabah, have given Platini their blessing – and what they want they usually get,” he adds.
Platini’sopponents are likely to be Prince Ali Bin al-Hussain, Jerome Champagne and Chung Mong-joon.
Chung Mong-joon, South Korean, a former Fifa vice-president has also declared his FIFA presidential bid. The 61-year-old is part of the family which founded and owns Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd, one of the largest corporations in the world. Chung was a fierce critic of Blatter during his time with Fifa declared himself as the much awaited messiah, saying he is coming to change the institution.
“If I get elected, my job is not to enjoy the luxury of the office. My job is to change it,” the 63-year-old, who is worth $1.2bn (£769m) according to Forbes, said in his declaration statement.
Jerome Champagne, on the other hand, is a former Fifa Deputy General Secretary, who tried and failed in his last bid to make it onto the Fifa presidential ballot paper. There are speculations that he is preparing to join the fray. The 56-year-old Frenchman, who secured the backing of only three national football associations last time round, may not stand a big chance but could cost his countryman some vital votes should he run.
Also likely to run for the FIFA presidency with less likelihood of success are former Brazil international Zico, ex-France winger, David Ginola and Argentina legend Diego Armando Maradona. However, there possibility of participation is further diminished by FIFA rules which specify that “presidential candidates must have been involved in football for two of the past five years”. And “have to gain the support of five football associations in order to validate their place on the ballot paper.”
The past five Fifa presidential elections
2015: Blatter beat Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan
2011: Blatter was unopposed because his rival Mohamed Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Federation, pulled out after being suspended over bribery allegations
2007: No other candidate was put forward to challenge Blatter
2002: Blatter saw off the challenge of Issa Hayatou, president of the African confederation CAF
1998: The Swiss succeeded Joao Havelange and won a bitter election against former Uefa president Lennart Johansson
By Olisemeka Obeche