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Platini vs. Johansson, with Blatter backing France's former star player

Platini vs. Johansson, with Blatter backing France's former star player

France soccer great Michel Platini goes against Swedish bureaucrat Lennart Johansson on Friday to become UEFA president, one of the biggest jobs in sports.
In a tight runoff, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has actively intervened for his protege Platini to unseat incumbent Johansson.
On the eve of the election, Blatter addressed hundreds of UEFA delegates and Johansson at the congress, boldly stating Platini was his man to lead European soccer.
Immediately, Blatter had to fend off accusations of favoritism when strict neutrality was expected.
"In respect to good friendship, I can say I have more sympathy for one or the other," he told the Associated Press afterward.
It highlighted how the election has become a battle of personalities, as the differences in their programs are not huge.
"It would not make a big difference who wins," Blatter said.
Platini, 51, was a three-time European player of the year in the 1980s, who successfully helped in leading the organization of the 1998 World Cup in France. Since then, he has worked closely with Blatter at FIFA.
Johansson, 77, has been president since 1990 and turned UEFA from an old-fashioned federation roiled by hooliganism and stadium disasters into a smooth professional organization with the highly successful Champions League as its flagship event.
Johansson would continue to form a strong team with UEFA CEO Lars-Christer Olsson while Platini would be expected to revamp the UEFA front office and introduce more of an executive-style management.
While Johansson wants to stick with the current format of the Champions League, Platini wants to limit the domination of the big countries and set the maximum for clubs from England, Spain and Italy at three instead of four.
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.
Johansson was upset by Blatter's comments on Thursday.
"It's typical Blatter, one day he says one thing and the next another," Johansson said. The two were involved in a bitter battle for the presidency of FIFA in 1998, which Blatter narrowly won.
Blatter has no vote. The 52 federation each have one in the secret election which gives Andorra as much a stake in the outcome as Germany. Few of the nations have come out publicly with their preference, making the outcome a cliffhanger.
Platini has been touring smaller European nations to canvass support while Johansson has some big nations like Germany and Spain backing him. 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. Had Johansson not sought a fifth term, Beckenbauer would have run.
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.


Updated : 2021-05-14 04:09 GMT+08:00