ASTANA (Reuters) - UEFA chief Michel Platini told Reuters on Thursday he was the only person capable of beating Sepp Blatter in an election battle for the FIFA presidency.
The 58-year-old Frenchman emphasized he had yet to decide whether to stand for world soccer’s top job next year but told Reuters in a briefing following the UEFA Congress in Kazakhstan: “There is only one person who can beat Blatter”.
Asked who that was, Platini said: “Me”.
The former France midfielder also said he told FIFA investigator Michael Garcia why, as a member of the organization’s executive committee, he voted for Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Platini added he would “be the first” to fight any bid to stop Garcia probing corruption allegations surrounding FIFA and that his first thought when he saw Nicolas Anelka’s recent ‘quenelle’ salute was, “Oh-oh, do the English realize what a problem they have here?”.
President of European soccer’s governing body UEFA since 2007, Platini said he would decide later this year whether to stand for the number one job at FIFA.
Asked if he had enough backing outside Europe, he replied: “Yes I have many people who support me around the world but I have not yet decided to run.
“I am happy being UEFA president and I still have to decide about FIFA. I will consult many people but it will be my personal decision in the end.”
Swiss Blatter, 78, FIFA president since 1998, has dropped strong hints that he will stand for re-election for a fifth term but will not announce his intentions until the organization’s annual Congress in Sao Paulo ahead of the World Cup in June.
So far only Jerome Champagne, formerly a Blatter aide at FIFA where he was also deputy general-secretary, has announced his candidacy.
Platini has brought a number of innovations to UEFA and, as a member of the FIFA executive that decided where the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would be held, he said he had no concerns about voting for Russia and Qatar.
“I had no problem in using my vote for Russia. Europe has had 10 World Cups but none in Russia, and Qatar is a new frontier,” he added.
FIFA were engulfed in accusations of corruption over the 2018 and 2022 votes and Blatter initiated a reform process in 2011 to look into the December 2010 decision to award the tournaments to Russia and Qatar.
Heading that investigation is New York lawyer Garcia but some of Platini’s executive committee members are unhappy with his work and tried last week to stop him from continuing.
Their plan was halted in its tracks by other executive committee members.
Platini said he was not aware of any plan to stop Garcia’s investigations and would never support such a move.
“I would be the first to fight against it,” he said. “Of course his work must continue, absolutely no doubt about it.”
A year ago at its Congress in London, UEFA introduced strong new measures to fight racism.
Anelka, playing for West Bromwich Albion, performed the anti-Semitic ‘quenelle’ salute after scoring a goal against West Ham United in the English Premier League in December.
The gesture ultimately earned the former France striker a ban, a fine and the sack from his club.
“I am almost getting too old to be surprised about the things that some people do,” said Platini. “Anelka is not stupid and knew what he was doing but perhaps he thought he could get away with it by doing it in England.
“Just because he is a great player it does not mean Anelka is a great role model. We also had a recent case of a Belgian player doing the same in a futsal match and gave him the maximum 10-game ban.”
Another incident in England on Saturday caught his attention, at Chelsea’s home match against Arsenal.
The game was not only notable for Chelsea’s 6-0 win over their London rivals but also for the referee sending off the wrong Arsenal player after a handling offence in the penalty area.
The incident sparked demands for video aids to help referees but Platini, no advocate of technology, stuck to his guns.
“It was a mistake by the referee yes but if the English FA used additional assistant referees like 35 other countries across Europe, he would have been in a far better position to have avoided the mistake,” the Frenchman explained.
The debate on technology never seems to end but the one on next year’s FIFA presidential elections will eventually cease.
“Perhaps if I go to FIFA I can make as many changes there as I have at UEFA,” said a grinning Platini.
Editing by Ossian Shine and Tony Jimenez