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Keir RadnedgeAs long as Michel Platini is president of UEFA he wants, as much as is possible, to keep political issues at arm’s length.

Platini set out his strategy this week in Jerusalem at the conclusion of the European Under-21 Championship whose staging in Israel had proved a magnet for pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

The Frenchman insisted that Israel had the same rights and duties as all the other 53 members of the UEFA football family. He wanted young people to enjoy the same football opportunities in Israel just as in every other European country – and also in Palestine.

UEFA always knew, after being persuaded by influential IFA president Avi Luzon to take the finals to Israel, that it could be a bumpy ride. Troubles in Gaza and then a steady series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations – including at UEFA Congress in London last month – provided mere confirmation.

But Platini maintained the course on which he had steered UEFA last year concerning Ukraine’s co-hosting of Euro 2012 amid a boycott from European Union politicians. That course involves ignoring issues on the ground and focusing only on the football.

In Jerusalem, on the morning of Tuesday’s final, he expounded on his creed.

Platini said: “I would like the football world to be peaceful where people can play peacefully and amicably. I’m familiar with the reality but, for young people and for everyone, football is something that should be good for them all.

“It’s the most powerful sport in the world today so some people take advantage of football’s popularity and – with a lot of journalists and media around – use this as leverage for other purposes such as economic and commercial reasons.

“The popularity of football allows this to happen. I would prefer people not to take football hostage. Before the finals in Ukraine people said maybe you shouldn’t go there but we kept on going and it’s been the same in Israel.

“We had problems with people from Palestine who didn’t want us to come. It’s their right to demonstrate but we also think it’s our right to do what is good for football and not for politics.

“I want children in Israel to play football as they do in other countries and I will not be dragged into political issues because an organisation such as ours should focus on the development of football and leave politics to the politicians.”

In a wide-ranging interview – which also covered international football’s financial success, German club strength and Juventus’ Champions League prospects – Platini also clarified UEFA’s neutral stance on the high-spending strategy adopted by Monaco.

The newly-promoted former French champions, refinanced by Russian fertiliser tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev, surprised European football in buying the free-scoring Colombian Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid.

Falcao’s acquisition has accounted for half of the summer expenditure of €100m which is also bringing James Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho and Ricardo Carvalho to Monte Carlo.

Platini pointed out, in response, that the exigencies of UEFA’s financial fair play applied only to those clubs whose domestic status qualified them to compete in European competition.

“Monaco are not in European competition,” he said, “so there is nothing to be decided.”

Platini reiterated his comments, in all his previous interviews about FFP, that the aim to stabilise club finances rather than exert punitive sanctions for their own sake.

Next year would bring the break-even deadline for clubs “which have all known the rules for a long time.”

He added: “Around April-May 2014 we will see who has complied with the rules and who hasn’t. This will be the decisive crossroads.”

By Keir Radnedge

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