Vienna: Football legend Michel Platini on Tuesday scored a hat-trick of victories for the presidency of UEFA and made an immediate attack on Sepp Blatter's leadership of world body FIFA.
Michel Platini. Pic/AFP
The 59-year-old Frenchman secured unopposed a third four-year term running one of the world's richest sports federations. But within minutes of taking the applause of the 54 member federations, and with Blatter sat in the audience, Platini launched new criticism of FIFA's scandal-plagued leadership. FIFA is to hold a presidential election on May 29. Blatter is favourite to win but for the first time faces three rivals for his post.
Europe, infuriated by controversy surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, is leading the campaign against the Swiss official. "We do love FIFA dearly. Europe's entire football community loves FIFA dearly. It is precisely because we love and respect it that we want it to be perfect," Platini said.
The UEFA boss also sought to win over the heads of the Asian, North America, South American and Oceania confederations who likewise were at the European body's annual congress. Without naming anyone, Platini said: "Certain people are perhaps trying to turn us against each other, seeking to divide and rule. "They are trying to isolate the supposedly arrogant and selfish Europeans." "Do not believe everything that you hear," said Platini.
"Yes, we know that we are in a privileged position. Yes, we know that we make mistakes and are not necessarily any better than anyone else. "You should know that we are willing to work with you, hand in hand, for the good of world football, for the good of the 209 national associations worldwide, and for the good of FIFA."
Earlier, Blatter won only a polite applause from the UEFA audience when he made an appeal for the "unity and this solidarity which exists as the foundations of football." The 79-year-old Blatter refused to address UEFA's Congress with his three rivals for the FIFA leadership -- Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, a FIFA vice president, Dutch federation chief Michael van Praag and former Portugal star Luis Figo.
He spoke to the UEFA meeting at the start of he day in his role as FIFA president. "Together with Europe, we need to build this unity on the inside and on the outside of your respective organisations," Blatter said.
The FIFA battle overshadowed Platini's success in winning a new term and his early message that Europe faces a return to the "dark days" of football hooliganism unless governments act. Platini said Europe's governments had to stop a return to the 1980s when "hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots" in many European stadiums.
The former football star highlighted the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster in Brussels, when 39 people died and he was playing for Juventus against Liverpool in the European Cup final. "Europe is seeing a rise in nationalism and extremism the like of which we have not witnessed for a very long time," Platini said. When Platini took over in 2007, UEFA earned 895 million euros ($980 million) in revenues. For 2015-16 when it will organise the European Championships for countries and the Champions League for clubs, it predicted earnings of 4.6 billion euros ($5.05 billion).
In eight years leading UEFA, Platini has reinforced the standing of the Champions League, now one of the world's most valuable sports brands which will earn more than 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) a season from 2016 to 2018. He has forced Europe's top clubs to rein in their profligate spending under Financial Fair Play rules. The European Championship for countries is also being reformed. Euro 2020 will be played in 13 cities in 13 different countries.
A Nations League, which offers qualification for the European Championship finals, will from 2018 replace most of the friendlies played by European countries that get little attention. Platini, who won the 1984 European Championship with France, considered running against Blatter but finally decided to stay with UEFA, though he has said he could consider a run at the FIFA presidency in the future.