Michel Platini has formally withdrawn his candidacy for the FIFA presidency and said he will dedicate himself to overturning his eight-year ban.
The UEFA president, banned by FIFA’s ethics committee from all football-related activity for eight years over a €2m Swiss franc payment he received from FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2011, said he had originally received 150 declarations of support when he announced he would run but had now been forced to pull out of the election on February 26 – it is also unclear whether any appeal process would have been completed by that date.
The move by the 60-year-old will clear the path for the other five candidates in the race to succeed Blatter as there was still the possibility that Platini could still stand if he overturned the ban on appeal.
Platini told L’Equipe: “I will not present myself as president of FIFA. I withdraw my candidacy.
"I cannot, I do not have the time or the means to go the voters, to meet people, to fight against the others.
“By removing myself, I make the choice to dedicate myself to my defence against a dossier where there is no mention of corruption, of falsification, forgery, where there is nothing any more.”
Platini had been the clear favourite to succeed Blatter but his election campaign was stopped in its tracks when details of the 2011 payment were revealed in September.
It then emerged the payment was based on only an oral agreement made with Blatter 13 years before when he worked as technical adviser to the FIFA president.
The Frenchman was provisionally banned for 90 days which stopped him campaigning, and the eight-year ban imposed on December 21 effectively ended his chances.
He added: “How can one win an election when one is prevented from campaigning”
“Yet when Blatter announced his retirement, I received 150 declarations of support – 100 official letters from federations and 50 promises. All this in two days.
“Now I must follow all the procedures – the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] and the [electoral] commission chaired by Domenico Scala who said that I had falsified accounts.
“I would have fought as I have always done in my life but I was not given the opportunity to compete this time around. ”
Asian football chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa has emerged as the new favourite but he faces competition from Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Frenchman Jerome Champagne, South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale, and Gianni Infantino, the Swiss lawyer who for the last five years has been Platini’s right-hand man as UEFA general secretary.