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"I have a clear conscience": disgraced soccer supremo bows out in 'gesture of humanity'

Soccer

Disgraced former UEFA president Michel Platini insists he has done nothing wrong and says his conscience is clear, while giving a farewell speech to European soccer’s governing body at its extraordinary Congress.

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The Frenchman, who resigned in May after being banned from the sport for four years for ethics violations, was given a round of applause by the delegates last night, Australian time, but did not get a standing ovation after his seven-minute speech.

“Thank you. Thank you for these nine years. I think we did a great job … Friends of football, farewell,” said Platini, who was first elected in 2007.

His replacement, Slovenia’s Aleksander Ceferin, was elected immediately afterwards, beating Dutchman Michael van Praag.

epa05539045 Newly elected UEFA President Slovenian Aleksander Ceferin (C) leaves after a press conference at 12th Extraordinary UEFA Congress in Athens, Greece, 14 September 2016. EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

Aleksander Ceferin leaves after a press conference at extraordinary UEFA congress in Athens. Photo: YANNIS KOLESIDIS / EPA

Despite Platini’s ban, FIFA’s ethics committee said an exception had been made for the event as a “gesture of humanity”.

“It’s very emotional for me to be here but I’m also delighted to be here because this will be my last speech to a UEFA Congress,” Platini began.

“You are going to continue this wonderful mission without me for reasons I don’t want to go into today.

“I have a clear conscience, I am certain not to have made any mistake and will continue to fight this in the courts.”

One of the finest players of his generation who went on to become a powerful sporting official, Platini was suspended over his dealings with fallen world soccer chief Sepp Blatter during the scandal which shook the sport’s global governing body last year.

Platini was banished along with Blatter over a payment of two million Swiss francs ($A2.8 million) made to the Frenchman by FIFA with Blatter’s approval in 2011 for work done a decade earlier.

Platini said football was “a game rather than a product, a sport rather than a market, a show not a business”.

“There isn’t one football for large nations and one for small nations, there is a single football, a single sport, it doesn’t belong to FIFA or UEFA, it belongs to the whole world,” he said.

“That is why I wanted to come today to say thank you and, friends of football, farewell.”

Ceferin, the president of Slovenia’s football federation, was overwhelmingly elected as the new head of UEFA at the extraordinary Congress.

epa05539047 Newly elected UEFA President Slovenian Aleksander Ceferin gestures during a press conference at 12th Extraordinary UEFA Congress in Athens, Greece, 14 September 2016. EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

Newly elected UEFA President Slovenian Aleksander Ceferin. Photo: YANNIS KOLESIDIS / EPA

The 48-year-old beat van Praag by 42 votes to 13, with each of UEFA’s 55 member associations having one vote in the election.

Ceferin, who is not a member of UEFA’s executive committee, was little known outside his country until he announced his intention to run in June.

“I am not a showman, I have no ego issues and I am not a man of unrealistic promises,” he told delegates before the vote.

He added that the “wind of change” was blowing through European football.

Both candidates had promised to help the smaller countries and leagues in the face of a growing divide between a handful of rich clubs and everyone else.

Both agreed the process which led to last month’s reformulation of the Champions League in favour of clubs from big countries was flawed and said they would fight any attempt to set up a breakaway Super League.

Ceferin did not say whether he would review the decision.

The Slovenian did say he would look again at the new structure of the European Championship, with matches spread across several countries leading to semi-finals and final in one place, which comes into place in 2020 and was the brainchild of Platini.

“It’s a great honour but, at the same time, a great responsibility,” said Ceferin.

Van Praag said: “Alex and myself have the same goal – look at our programs. He wanted to do it his way and I wanted to do it my way and today democracy has spoken.”

-Reuters, AAP

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