European soccer chief Michel Platini expressed confidence Thursday in his ability to become FIFA’s next president, despite his current suspension from international soccer. Platini is one of seven people who applied to be candidates in the race replace FIFA President Sepp Blatter, also suspended, who is to formally step down after the election in February.
FIFA suspended Platini earlier this month for at least 90 days during an investigation of a $2 million payment Blatter made to Platini in 2011, nearly a decade after he performed the work for which he was being paid. But Platini said the suspension, which will prevent him from actively campaigning for the presidency for the next few months, won’t derail his candidacy.
“I’m not in a penal colony or a Siberian gulag,” he said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Le Matin, according to Reuters. “I’m waiting for events to unfold.”
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Blatter announced plans to resign (eventually) and hold new elections in June, days after nine current and former FIFA executives were arrested on corruption charges. Earlier this month, Swiss authorities announced Blatter was the focus of a criminal probe, citing evidence of “criminal mismanagement” of FIFA’s affairs, including the payment to Platini. Both Platini and Blatter are serving suspensions, but neither has been indicted on criminal charges. Both men deny any wrongdoing.
Platini, who serves as head of the Union of European Football Associations in addition to his role on FIFA’s executive committee, has presented himself as an agent for reform in international soccer amid its unprecedented corruption scandal. The 60-year-old Frenchman, who is considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, said the soccer establishment is against his candidacy because he’s a former player.
“I get the impression they don’t want a former player running FIFA, as if they don’t want to give football back to the players. But I am the only one who has a vision right across football,” Platini added. “I am, in all modesty, the best-placed candidate to run world football.”
Platini was one of seven people to apply to become FIFA presidential candidates before Monday's entry deadline. Other notable applicants include Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan (members of their respective royal families) and Jerome Champagne of France. FIFA will announce a final list of candidates in November, after applicants have been vetted, but Platini’s application will not be reviewed until his suspension is lifted, the Associated Press reported.