Best of enemies: Blatter-Platini rift to shape FIFA election

Thu Aug 20, 2015 10:58am EDT
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By Simon Evans and Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - An increasingly bitter rift between FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA chief Michel Platini looks set to define the campaign to elect the next leader of soccer's corruption-plagued world governing body.

The tense relationship between the Swiss and the Frenchman, once described by Blatter as being “like father and son”, has descended in recent days into open conflict.

"Blatter will do whatever he can to stop Platini becoming president of FIFA,” said a former senior official with the organization. “He hasn’t yet found the candidate he thinks can beat Platini, but you can be sure he is searching for one”.

An acrimonious and divisive contest is the last thing FIFA needs as it picks a new leader to succeed Blatter and clean up a bribery scandal in which U.S. authorities have indicted nine soccer officials and five sports marketing executives.

U.S. and Swiss prosecutors are investigating corruption at the highest levels of the world's most popular sport, including in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, in a saga that has dismayed fans and worried powerful sponsors like McDonald's Corp, Coca-Cola and Visa.

In a sign of the deepening rancor, Blatter said in an interview with Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on Saturday that there was an “anti-FIFA virus” at UEFA, the European governing body headed by former French star Platini.

He further alleged that Platini had intimidated his family before May’s FIFA election, in which Blatter defied the growing corruption scandal to get himself returned for a fifth term -- only to announce four days later that he would step down.

Platini’s camp dismissed the charge as “ridiculous”.   Continued...

Re-elected FIFA President Sepp Blatter arrives for a news conference after an extraordinary Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, May 30, 2015.    REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann