MONACO — Michel Platini apologized Friday for refusing to discuss FIFA issues at his first news conference since announcing his bid for president of the governing body last month.
UEFA had said its president would reveal campaign ideas and take questions at his annual meeting with international media in Monaco on the sidelines of the Champions League draw.
“I know why you all came and I know what you’re interested in hasn’t been discussed today,” Platini said in French, closing a one-hour session by apologizing. “I know you are entitled to ask your questions but I am also entitled not to reply to them.”
Platini had begun by telling his spokesman to be a “policeman” and block FIFA-related questions.
Answers were expected about corruption allegations levelled at some of Platini’s FIFA colleagues and a long-standing UEFA-FIFA rift which has seemed to deepen since Sepp Blatter announced his planned exit on June 2.
UEFA complained to FIFA two weeks ago about a newspaper-style article seeking to discredit Platini which it alleged was sent anonymously by a Blatter staffer to German language media. A specific question about the complaint was brushed aside Friday.
Platini has been criticized by potential election rivals, and UEFA officials were stunned that Prince Ali bin al-Hussein — who lost to Blatter in May amid the corruption crisis — said his former ally’s candidature was “bad for football.”
On Thursday, FIFA official Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa confirmed he is “weighing all options” to run in a conference call with reporters arranged by the Zurich-based body.
Still, Platini is the front-runner to succeed his former mentor Blatter, who is stepping down under pressure from American and Swiss investigations of bribery and alleged money-laundering.
Platini declared on July 29 he would seek the FIFA job, after UEFA said leaders of four of FIFA’s six continental confederations supported him. The former France great could have expected questions Friday about how solid his backing was, with almost two months left for would-be candidates to be nominated for the Feb. 26 ballot.
“This just wasn’t the right place or time to talk about that,” Platini said, one year after using his Monaco briefing to criticize Blatter and announce he would not go head-to-head in the scheduled May 2015 ballot.
Platini did confirm what he hinted in March after his UEFA re-election in Vienna, Austria. Whatever his future at FIFA, he will not stay at UEFA beyond 2019.
In other answers he did give, Platini dismissed suggestions Olympiakos got special treatment to enter the Champions League despite unproven match-fixing claims because a senior UEFA official’s father is a club director.
“They are fully entitled to be an Olympiakos fan and that’s fine,” Platini said of his staff having club loyalties.
UEFA’s decision to let the Greek champion play during a criminal investigation was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport this week.