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Blatter backs Platini on eve of UEFA election

Blatter backs Platini on eve of UEFA election

FIFA president Sepp Blatter publicly threw his support behind Michel Platini in his bid to unseat Lennart Johansson as head of European soccer's governing body.
Speaking on the eve of Friday's UEFA election, Blatter insisted he was neutral but then openly professed his admiration for Platini, a former France star and three-time European player of the year.
"Both candidates asked me if they should run and I said yes," Blatter said. "With a `no' to one of them I would have given up my neutrality.
"But as FIFA chief _ and this is not to belittle Lennart Johansson's merits _ I have sympathy for the man that has been by my side since 1998, for Michel Platini."
The 51-year-old Platini was brought into soccer politics by Blatter and has held various jobs in FIFA since then.
Johansson, who lost to Blatter for the FIFA presidency in 1998 after a bitterly contested campaign, was upset by Blatter's comments.
"It's typical Blatter _ one day he says one thing and the next another," Johansson said. "I think he's wheeling and dealing, going right and then left, having one opinion on Monday and then another on Tuesday. That's not friendship, that's far away from it. I don't follow his ways, I don't get it."
Blatter has no vote but he said he was following the election with close interest because of UEFA's importance in world soccer.
While UEFA is only one of the continental federations under the umbrella of FIFA, UEFA covers the biggest and richest leagues in the world and the sport's biggest clubs.
Blatter defended his right to express his opinion.
"I have to say to these associations what I am thinking and I say it. I said what I think. I have the right to say I have sympathy for a man who has been with me through the turmoil of the last eight years," Blatter said.
Johansson also addressed the gathering but did not mention the election.
Friday's vote by the 52 European national soccer federation presidents is by secret ballot, and few have come out publicly for their favorite.
Johansson, a 77-year-year-old Swede, is seeking a fifth term. Platini led France to the European Championship title in 1984.
The German soccer federation, DFB, is backing Johansson. The Germans are grateful to him for helping them win the right to host last year's World Cup.
"We have a lot to thank Lennart Johansson for," Franz Beckenbauer said. "It's the duty of the DFB to support Johansson at this election. There has never been a better or a more successful UEFA president than Lennart Johansson."
Some other big federations are also believed to be behind Johansson. But with each nation having one vote, the size of the federation does not matter. Platini has been touring smaller European nations to canvass support.
Johansson's camp claims it has the confirmed support of 36 federations, including Spain. Some east European nations, including Poland and Serbia, are believed to back Platini.
Both Johansson and Platini have been spending the final days before the vote in the corridors of a Duesseldorf hotel, doing last-minute campaigning.
Platini has promised to reduce the maximum number of clubs in the Champions League from one country to three from four, giving more countries a chance of getting their clubs into the lucrative competition.
Johansson was instrumental in transforming the Champions Cup into the rich Champions League and wants to preserve the status quo.
"I am not going to make any change in the existing competition which is praised by the players, by the clubs and by the small nations. I see no reason," Johansson said. "Give him (Platini) the opportunity to tell us why we should change such a success story. The Champions League is sent by television all over the world and many sports try to copy it."
Once the mastermind of a brilliant French midfield, Platini may lack administrative experience but did help organize the 1998 World Cup in France.
"I am cool, calm," Platini told the French sports daily L'Equipe this week. "I haven't sold my soul to get elected. If I lose, I'll be disappointed because I am a winner, but basically, I've already won. My victory is to have explained to the world my vision and my philosophy of soccer and to have convinced many."


Updated : 2021-06-14 03:41 GMT+08:00