By Andrew Warshaw
October 8 – Still protesting his innocence at the ban that crushed his hopes of landing the FIFA presidency he so coveted, former UEFA chief Michel Platini is free to work in football again and is vowing to make a comeback which could potentially mean trouble for those he believes conspired to end his career.
Platini’s four-year ban officially expired today and having sat on the sidelines after several failed efforts to have the punishment quashed, the charismatic Frenchman, once the heir apparent to Sepp Blatter, says he will return but has not revealed in what capacity or whether it will be in football politics.
“I have some idea but it’s difficult to speak today,” Platini, who has not yet paid a CHF60,000 fine, told the Associated Press.
“I have time, if I come back to this,” he added, noting that the next elections for top roles at FIFA, UEFA and the French football association are “some years ahead”.
A triple Ballon d’Or winner as one of finest footballers of his generation, Platini was expected to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in 2016 but fell spectacularly from grace a few months earlier when he was banned for receiving a CHF 2 million payment from FIFA and signed off by Blatter as the second part of a 10-year delayed payment for supposed consulting work. The initial ban was for eight years but was reduced first to six years and then to four. Blatter is serving a six-year ban for authorising the uncontracted payment.
The payment, made in 2011 when Blatter was seeking re-election as president, was related to work carried out by Platini between 1999 and 2002 and the charges against him were upheld by FIFA’s appeals committee, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Switzerland’s supreme court.
Platini has shown no sign of relenting, however, and is challenging the Swiss federal ruling at the European Court of Human Rights.
His fierce sense of injustice, coupled with a feeling – however justified – of bitterness and betrayal, has been a driving force in his determination to clear his name.
Much of his criticism has been levelled towards his former his right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, who he has repeatedly described as “not credible” as FIFA president and who he suspects was part of the alleged conspiracy that saw him banned, leaving a path for Infantino to snatch what he believes was his rightful place as the most powerful official in world football.
Accusing Infantino of double standards and duplicity, Platini, whose critics will doubtless counter he is simply guilty of sour grapes, charged back in June: “He had done everything to make me FIFA President, he worked hard for me to get letters of support from the presidents of federations, because with me at the head of FIFA, he saw himself as president of UEFA. But when he realised that I was ‘dead’ because of my troubles, he decided to run (for FIFA).”
Last month, Platini told Swiss television channel RTS: “I will be back. I don’t know where, I don’t know how. I can’t go out of the game on the back of a ban, even if it’s a ban made by idiots.”
He is due to have a book published in November reflecting on his career in football politics. It could make for colourful reading.
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