By Andrew Warshaw
May 13 – Still clearly hurt and convinced of having been the victim of a conspiracy, former UEFA president Michel Platini (pictured left) has launched a savage attack on Gianni Infantino (pictured right), saying the FIFA boss only acquired the most important position in world football “due to a skilful combination of circumstances”, describing him as a “great manipulator” and saying he “should resign his mandate.”
With his four-year ban over the notorious “disloyal payment” scandal now having expired, Platini has used the platform of Switzerland’s prestigious l’Illustre magazine to fire a furious broadside at Infantino who, of course, was his number two at UEFA but who succeeded in grabbing the job he so coveted from under his nose.
Platini has been ordered by FIFA to reimburse the infamous CHF 2 million he received from Sepp Blatter back in 2011 but the Frenchman questions FIFA’s motivation.
“Explain to me: why did FIFA wait so long to ask me to return this sum? First of all because it knows that this payment was perfectly legitimate, validated by its president, its executive committee, the Financial Commission, the annual congress and the auditors…
“This request for reimbursement is Infantino’s way of hiding the truth. He is a great manipulator. He is perfectly aware that this is the only way for him to maintain public doubts concerning me. Civil justice will decide this question and this will put an end to this debate.”
Addressing his ban, which destroyed his reputation and scuppered his chances of ever succeeding Blatter, Platini argued, not for the first time, that it was a calculated attempt to stop him achieving his goal.
“The fact that I was the victim of a conspiracy is obvious to me,” he told the magazine. “In 2016, the FIFA presidency should have returned to me by a very large majority, everyone knows that. Infantino, who was my secretary general at UEFA, knew this better than anyone.
“However, as numerous press articles have revealed, it seems that Gianni Infantino skilfully combined, at the beginning of summer 2015, to ensure that I was excluded from the race for the presidency of FIFA, by behind-the-scenes ad hoc agreements between the Attorney General of the Confederation Michael Lauber, his spokesman (Andre) Marty, the chief prosecutor Olivier Thormann, the head of the FIFA legal service Marco Villiger; the childhood friend of Infantino, Valais prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold; and all with the help of Zurich lawyer Michele Bernasconi.”
Although he has frequently admitted publicly that he voted for Qatar to stage the 2022 World Cup, Platini questions whether the Gulf state should still be allowed to host given recently published fresh allegations of corruption and bribery revealed as part of the ongoing FiIFAgate scandal in the United States.
“It is legitimate to consider that if the vote has been rigged, that if there has been corruption by the payment of bribes, FIFA cannot turn a blind eye,” said Platini.
“It is obviously very hard for Qatar which has invested so much in stadiums and infrastructure…But to the extent that the American justice system seems to have irrefutable proof, one should not play a World Cup tainted with illegality. You need to have some moral authority to question a rigged vote: Infantino has neither the scale nor the ethics that a FIFA president must have to make such decisions.”
Turning to the undocumented meetings between Infantino and Lauber that have caused such a stir in both Swiss administrative circles and international football politics, Platini, whose words will be interpreted by his critics as those of a man wracked by bitterness and resentment, continued: “The main problem is that Lauber and Infantino think they are untouchable and above the law.
“This is why they allowed themselves this type of meeting, unthinkable in a self-respecting state of law. I think Lauber is aware that he has crossed the red line. Infantino, in my opinion, should surrender his mandate.
“But the problem is that he became president of FIFA by skilful combination of circumstances, as an opportunist, without having any particular legitimacy.”
“Switzerland cannot be satisfied with this situation. Conflict of interest is omnipresent. “
Although all charges against him were upheld by FIFA’s appeals committee, the Court of Arbitration for Sport , Switzerland’s supreme court and the European Court of Human Rights, Platini still seems to think he was unfairly treated despite a succession of legal defeats and hopes that eventually, “we can finally whistle the end of the match with peace of mind.”
“My one and only driving force is my desire for justice. Whether the rest of my life is linked to football or not is ultimately not so important in the face of the need to establish the truth once and for all.”
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