Michel Platini has confirmed that he will run for the FIFA presidency which he will be overwhelming favourite to secure.
The whispers had gained in volume over the past week and the French president of European federation UEFA has now confirmed his intention in a letter to the leaders of all the world’s 209 national football associations.
If he were to become president Platini would have completed the ultimate progression up the football ladder from national team captain to national coach to World Cup organisers, FIFA officer and UEFA president.
In his letter Platini said: “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.
“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.
“Recent events force the supreme governing body of world football to turn over a new leaf and rethink its governance.[My idea] is to give FIFA back the dignity and the position it deserves . . . [after] listening to everyone and respecting the diversity of the game around the world.
“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.”
Platini first entered the FIFA arena in 1998 when newly-elected president Sepp Blatter appointed the Frenchman as his ‘football counsellor.’
Blatter had just been elected president, stepping up from general secretary, with the support of a varied cast who included not only the now-disgraced Mohamed bin Hammam but also Platini himself, revelling in his role as president of the French World Cup local organising committee.
The FIFA election, this time around, will be on February 26 and one of Platini’s first set-piece appearances will be in Britain, at the annual meeting of the law-making International Football Association Board at Celtic Manor on March 4-6.
Platini has come in for heavy criticism over the 2022 World Cup award to Qatar, for which he voted even though this ultimately meant switching the timing into the middle of the European league season.
He was also under fire last year when he was voluble in demanding that Blatter should step down but would not stand himself. That all goes back to loyalty: Blatter appointed Platini as his ‘counsellor’ in 1998 and the Frenchman always said: “I will never stand against Blatter.”
Perversely, it is because Blatter rebuffed Platini’s last-minute attempt to persuade him to quit that ‘Platoche’ is now within reach of the leadership of the world game.
On the morning before the election last May Platini told Blatter, “as an old friend,” that it was time to go. If Blatter had accepted the Prince Ali of Jordan, with Europe’s support, would have been elected without contest. Instead Blatter won a fifth term . . . which he relinquished within four days, thus presenting Platini with the opportunity he will surely grasp.
Likely opposition is thin on the ground. South Korea’s former FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-joon has talked of standing but he has been out of the arena for four years – since, ironically, the Asian confederation dumped him in favour of Prince Ali.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who has made his name as a power-broker within the Olympic movement, is there. But his accession to the FIFA exco this past May was probably with an eye on a run for the FIFA presidency in 2019; now is too soon.
Platini, who has talked with both men in recent weeks, would be the third Frenchman to lead FIFA after founding president Robert Guerin, who served between 1904 and 1906, and then long-serving Jules Rimet who was elected in 1921 and retired in 1954.
Only one of FIFA’s presidents in 111 years has not been European – Brazilian Joao Havelange who headed it from 1974 until 1998.