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  • Op-Ed - Will it be Platini v Blatter for FIFA Presidency?


    (ATR) Michel Platini will consult with UEFA's 54 member federations on Thursday before announcing whether he will take on Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.

    At a meeting in Monaco ahead of the Champions League Draw, the Frenchman is scheduled to meet with the presidents and general secretaries of the associations. He will deliver a speech to them outlining his vision for UEFA and talking about FIFA’s future. Platini will ask for the federations’ support for his vision.

    The 59-year-old will then announce his intentions at a press conference.

    A source close to Platini gave nothing away about his thinking, insisting the UEFA chief's mind may not be made up until he speaks with his trusted federation leaders.

    “Even though many times he is portrayed as someone who makes decision on a whim, it’s very rare that happens,” he told Around the Rings. “Everything communicated and decided goes through people who he considers the voice of UEFA, the 54 federations.

    “He still wants to have the blessing of his national associations one way or another and give them an opportunity to say what they think and feel.”

    The UEFA insider added: “It’s an important day for him. He is calm about it, spending a lot of time thinking about it and he just wants to make sure everybody is on the same page.”

    It would be a surprise if Platini ran against incumbent Blatter. Despite publicly withdrawing backing for the Swiss on the eve of the Brazil World Cup, he knows only too well that Blatter has built a solid base of global support around FIFA’s six confederations since taking office in 1998.

    ATR attended the AFC, CAF and Oceania confederation congresses in Sao Paulo in June and this was abundantly clear. At each one, Blatter went on the charm offensive, pledging huge World Cup bonuses for football associations and confederations before appealing for them to back his election bid for a fifth term as FIFA chief.

    But the UEFA president is not among Blatter’s followers. Hours before Brazil kicked off against Croatia, he grabbed the headlines, refusing to back Blatter's re-election quest and criticizing his one-time ally for reversing his 2011 vow to step down after a fourth term. "I do not support him. I have known him for a long time and I like him but I am not in favor of him having a new term," the Frenchman said in Sao Paulo. "I supported him in 1998 but I do not support him in 2014.

    "And in the future I will not support Mr Blatter. I told him. I think that FIFA needs a breath of fresh air,” he added.

    Big Task for Platini

    Body language says it all: Platini and Blatter at Germany's win over Portugal at the World Cup (Getty)
    comments came after a stormy UEFA Congress at which there was significant opposition to Blatter’s FIFA presidential ambitions. Two FA chairman – Dutchman Michael van Praag and English federation leader Greg Dyke – blasted Blatter and called for him to step down.

    The former France striker’s problem lies outside Europe and winning support from the other 156 member federations of FIFA who will cast their votes at the elections in Zurich. Only if he can secure a few allies on the FIFA ExCo and around the top brass of the confederations, and draw up an attractive election manifesto of wide appeal to the 209 voters, does he have any chance of building some momentum going into the May elections. But even then the likelihood of him ousting Blatter remains slim.

    Earlier this year, he voiced confidence about going into battle with Blatter: "There is only one person who can beat Blatter. Me." He told Reuters at the time that he would have enough support outside Europe to win the FIFA presidency. "Yes I have many people who support me around the world,” he said.

    But the Frenchman may instead decide on Thursday that a life of FIFA politics is not for him – at least not now. More likely, UEFA’s federations could agree to put forward a protest candidate to challenge Blatter and keep him on his toes until the seemingly inevitable march to victory.

    Unfinished business at UEFA is enough of a pull to keep Platini from taking on Blatter. He expects to be re-elected as UEFA president next March. And he has plenty on his plate with Euro 2016 in his home country on the radar, masterminding the delivery of the pan-European Euro 2020 and Nations League, along with implementation of Financial Fair Play regulations.

    Interestingly, Blatter did not formally declare his candidacy for the FIFA presidency at the FIFA Congress in June. A January deadline was set. Frenchman Jerome Champagne, a former Blatter ally, is the only one who has said he will challenge Blatter in the May 29 elections. Only if Platini’s name is in the mix will the race for the top job in world football become interesting. If not, it’ll be a shoo-in for Blatter.

    Written by Mark Bisson

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