Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 28th 2015 Contents A61
Monday, September 28, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
ZURICH---Before protege turned protagonist, Michel
Platini was inseparable from Sepp Blatter, as if they
had a telepathic partnership on a football field.
Long since estranged, their past alliance is now the
focus of criminal investigators, and their Fifa fates in
the short term are likely to be determined by the
organisation s ethics committee, which is expected to
meet over the coming week.
The question for Blatter is why Fifa paid two million
Swiss francs (about US$2 million) to Platini in 2011
for work supposedly carried out at least nine years
earlier. The Swiss attorney general suspects it was a
"disloyal payment" from Fifa s vast cash reserves,
although Blatter denied wrongdoing after being inter-
rogated on Friday as his presidential office was searched.
Platini was officially classified as a witness on Friday,
offering documentation to assist investigators while
insisting publicly it was for legitimate work.
There has been silence since from UEFA on a mys-
tifying aspect of the payment: Did Platini only bill
Fifa for the 1999-2002 work in 2011 or was the payment
unexpected after writing off a debt? Later in 2011,
Platini backed Blatter for re-election after deciding
not to challenge the incumbent.
The timing of the latest investigation could not
come at a worse time for Platini, who denies any
impropriety. In a month s time the Frenchman, who
is also a Fifa vice president, has to pass integrity checks
to gain a place on the ballot to succeed Blatter in Feb-
Tutored in sports politics by Blatter, the once-
smooth playmaker for France lent his glamour to the
1998 election campaign that resulted in the Swiss suc-
ceeding Joao Havelange.
In return, Platini joined the Fifa payroll. Wherever
Blatter traveled, for almost a decade, Platini was likely
to be found at his side as his most loyal adviser.
Only when Platini saw his own path to the presidency
at Fifa blocked by an immovable Blatter did the friend-
Platini, like the rest of world football, was assured
by Blatter in 2011 that the presidential office in Zurich
would be vacated in May 2015. But Blatter has a thirst
for power and couldn t let go. Platini, exasperated,
had to settle for a third term running European football
Even the earthquake caused by the criminal indict-
ments of Fifa officials in May, three days before the
election, could not force Blatter out---however much
Platini tried to beg his former mentor to stand aside.
Yet the vacancy opened up again when Blatter
stunned football with his resignation statement at the
start of June, paving the way for a February election.
Platini seems so certain about his prospects that
he has stayed largely silent in public about his Fifa
plans, engaging in no discussion about how he would
overhaul the tainted governing body.
Now the campaign appears to be faltering before
Platini even presents a manifesto.
Platini s credentials as a reformer were ridiculed by
rivals even before he became embroiled in the Blatter
scandal on Friday.
And he threw a fresh spotlight Thursday on one of
his controversial decisions---voting for Qatar to host
the 2022 World Cup.
Platini told The Associated Press he "might have
told" American officials he would vote for the rival
United States bid. However, he changed his mind after
a November 2010 meeting hosted by Nicolas Sarkozy
at the then-French President s official residence in
Paris and also attended by senior Qatari officials.
Platini said it was not anything pre-arranged and
he has defended the integrity of his vote.
Allegations about Platini s support for Qatar also
featured in a smear document that emanated from
within FIFA in August. It resulted in a Fifa staffer
leaving following a complaint from UEFA.
Then, after documents were revealed by a friend of
Platini s relating to World Cup ticket sales, Fifa secretary
general Jerome Valcke was suspended---while denying
In the brief AP interview on Thursday, Platini stated
his intention to tone down the politics and shift atten-
tion in Fifa back to the game itself.
In this May 29 file
Blatter after his
president, left, is
greeted by UEFA
Platini, right, at
Friday, the Swiss
Blatter and Platini
await Fifa fates
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