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

Thu Aug 20, 2015 10:52am EDT
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* 'Father-son' relationship descends into acrimony

* Blatter to influence race despite standing down

* Fans, sponsors look to next leader to clean up sport

By Simon Evans and Brian Homewood

ZURICH, Aug 20 (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 organisation. "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.   Continued...