Paris, Jan 8 (IANS) Banned European football president Michel Platini has formally withdrawn his candidacy from the presidency race for a scandal-plagued world governing body FIFA, the UEFA chief was cited as saying in an interview. “I will not present myself for the presidency of FIFA,” said the UEFA chief in an interview with L’Equipe to be published in full on Friday, reports Xinhua. Platini, along with departing FIFA president Sepp Blatter, was banned from all football-related activity for eight years by FIFA’s ethics committee on December 21 over a two million Swiss franc payment he had received from the Swiss in 2011. 

The 60-year-old had been hoping to win an appeal in time to be allowed a candidacy for the FIFA election on February 26, before he changed his mind. “I am withdrawing my candidature. I no longer have the time nor the means to go and see the voters, to meet people, and to fight against the other candidates. “By withdrawing, I will concentrate on my defence,” added the former French international, who has insisted he’s done nothing wrong. A clear favourite to succeed Blatter for the sport’s most powerful job before the allegations emerged, Platini was initially suspended for 90 days before the eight-year ban was imposed. “It’s a matter of schedule, but not only that,” said Platini, referring to the January 26 deadline for nominations. “How can you win an election when you are prevented from campaigning?” Platini had explained that the 2 million Swiss francs were paid to him by FIFA with Blatter’s approval for his work done as a special consultant during 1999-2002, but FIFA’s ethics committee said the payment, made at a time when Blatter’s seeking re-election, lacked transparency. 

“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,” Platini told L’Equipe. “I have fought like I have always fought in my life, but I have not been given the chance to play the game,” added the Frenchman, who instead reiterate his intention to overturn the eight-year ban by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Platini’s withdrawal leaves five declared candidates for the FIFA presidency, and they are Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino of Switzerland and South Africa businessman Tokyo Sexwale.

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