LONDON (Reuters) – Suspended UEFA head Michel Platini said on Thursday he was the only person with the vision to lead soccer’s world governing body FIFA out of a corruption scandal but there were opponents who “don’t want to give football back to the players”.
“I’m not in a penal colony or a Siberian Gulag,” the European soccer authority chief said of a 90-day provisional suspension excluding him from campaigning for February elections to the FIFA presidency. “I’m waiting for events to unfold.”
FIFA has been embroiled in a widening corruption scandal since 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted by the United States in May.
Since then, Swiss authorities have opened their own investigation into FIFA’s activities and FIFA’s own Ethics Committee has suspended both President Sepp Blatter and Platini, who had been favourite to replace him. Platini denies wrongdoing and is fighting the suspension.
“People want to prevent me running because they know that I have every chance of winning,” Platini, one of seven candidates in the race for the presidency, said in interview published by British newspaper the Daily Telegraph and the Swiss French-language Le Matin.
Platini portrayed himself as the man to bring world soccer back to its sporting roots.
“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,” he said, citing his record as player, France coach and UEFA president.
“I am, in all modesty, the best-placed person to run world football.”
“STILL A CANDIDATE”
Platini and Blatter have been provisionally banned while FIFA investigates a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) the Frenchman received from FIFA in 2011.
The Swiss attorney general’s office has initiated criminal proceedings against Blatter over the payment in 2011 and says that Platini is “between a witness and an accused person”.
The payment, which Platini said was for work done for FIFA between 1998 and 2002, was made shortly before a FIFA election which Blatter won in 2011 and raised questions as to why the Frenchman had waited nine years to be paid.
“People have recently been bringing up that my debt wasn’t detailed in the FIFA accounts,” Platini said. “It was put before two specialist committees on the subject and was quite obviously reviewed by the statutory auditor.
“So to be clear: was there work provided? Yes. Is an oral contract legal in Switzerland? Yes. Did I have the right to reclaim my money even nine years later? Yes. Did I produce a proper invoice as FIFA required? Yes. Was the money declared to the taxman? Yes.”
He described his ban as disproportionate.
“This suspension prevents me from campaigning and fighting on an equal footing. Even if I cannot go out campaigning, I fully consider myself a candidate,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; editing by Ralph Boulton)