Come December, FIFA will elect a new president—hopefully one who can lead football’s global governing body out of the mess Sepp Blatter made. Today Michel Platini, who’s currently the president of European football association UEFA, said he’s the man for the job.
Blatter, who resigned last month as FIFA chief, is on his way out after one too many holes were poked in FIFA affairs and widespread corruption was exposed. Preparation for upcoming World Cup tournaments has been derailed.
Platini was not one of the candidates challenging Blatter during the regularly scheduled FIFA presidential election earlier this year, which Blatter obviously won. At that time, Platini (and most UEFA members) endorsed the candidacy of Jordanian prince and FIFA vice-president Ali bin al-Hussein. Blatter beat al-Hussein in a 133-73 vote in May.
Al-Hussein has not announced an intention to run in the upcoming December election for Blatter’s replacement. Others have—Chung Mong-joon, Musa Bility, Diego Maradona, and Jerome Champagne all said they were interested—but now Platini is considered the most serious contender.
Until Blatter angered him this year, by breaking his promise to leave office after his fourth term as president, Platini and Blatter were friends. As such, the accusations that dogged Blatter’s 2015 campaign may stick to Platini. He was a member of the executive committee that organized the 1998 World Cup in France, one of whose members admitted accepting bribes. And he’s been blasted for voting in favor of the controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Al-Hussein won’t endorse Platini’s candidacy; in a statement today, he said “Platini is not good for FIFA,” because the organization “needs new, independent leadership, untainted by the practices of the past.”
Bonita Mersiades, an activist affiliated with the reform group “New FIFA Now,” criticized Platini in 2011 for staying silent instead of using his clout, as a vice president, to challenge Blatter’s leadership. “He is in an unassailable position to show leadership and breach the moral vacuum of FIFA,” she wrote (pdf, p. 3). “But he doesn’t because he wants to be the next President of FIFA and he believes the best way of getting there is to remain silent.”
Others speak more highly of his character. “The Uefa president is a man who, even his enemies concede, has an instinctive loathing of bribery, match-fixing and criminality in general,” GQ reporter Robert Chalmers wrote in a 2014 profile. Eric Champel, a French journalist interviewed by Chalmers, said that was nice, but not enough. “I believe that Michel Platini is closely and sincerely bonded both to Uefa and to club football and that he has a genuine desire to democratise football. I am not sure that he has the diplomatic skills to shape the world game.”