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Keir RadnedgeFrenchman Philippe Piat is back as president of the international players’ union.

His uncontested appointment, by FIFPro’s congress in Ljubljana, may be taken as a positive sign for septuagenarians everywhere in football. Piat is 72, only five years younger than Sepp Blatter who is considering running for another term as president of world federation FIFA.

Born in Casablanca, now Morocco, Piat played for Strasbourg, Monaco and Sochaux while becoming outspoken president of the French players’ union. He has already had one spell as president of FIFPro from 2005 to 2007 after having been secretary-general. His return was seen as an agreed compromise among delegates from the international regions.

Piat said, on his return to office, that FIFPro considered all players equal, whether playing in the Champions League or a minor league.

He is on record as wanting much tighter restrictions over the January transfer market which he considers an arrangement which suits agents to the detriment of stability in the game.

After succeeding Leo Grosso, Piat issued a call to arms for players everywhere to support their national unions.

He said: “Without strong national players’ associations, FIFPro would resonate like an empty shell.

“Today FIFPro is a respected institution, that fights a daily battle, everywhere were professional football is being rightfully played, to defend the rights and the interests of the players, whether the player is called  Lionel Messi, the extraordinary forward of FC Barcelona, or Loïc Feudjou, the goalkeeper of Coton Sport de Garoua in Cameroon.

“For FIFPro, there is no and there will never be any difference between the most well-known, the stars, and the others ones, the anonymous players, who have the same profession and play football with the same unbreakable spirit.

“If there is a gap between the world’s best players and all the other players, then FIFPro is there to fill this gap. While helping the best players to get even better, FIFPro helps the anonymous players in order to allow them to step out from the shadow or, at least, to practise their profession under the best possible conditions.”

Piat is certainly no establishment figure. He is highly critical of the ‘guilt asumption’ strategy imposed on football by the World Anti-Doping Agency and believes the game’s governing bodies are too quick to punish players for match-fixing – “the messengers” – rather than the managers, agents, directors and other figures controlling the illicit business.

He said: “We must continue our crusade against the WADA code, while stating that we are of course against any form of doping.

“The fact that WADA is looking for some guilty ones shouldn’t justify regulations that destruct freedom. Players are citizens just like anybody else, and not permanent suspects, nor criminals on the run.

“As for match-fixing . . . we must make people understand that if there are corrupted individuals, there are also corrupting ones. To sanction only the footballers solves nothing.”

As for World Cup venues, Piat has cautioned members to note that Russia – “with significant human rights issue to concern us” – is coming around far sooner than Qatar 2022.

By Keir Radnedge

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