Mexico City (AFP) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino opened a meeting of the football body’s new council in Mexico on Monday, as UEFA chief Michel Platini’s resignation following a sport ban cast a shadow over the event.
Infantino, who was Platini’s number two at the European football organization before taking over FIFA in February, lamented his former mentor’s downfall.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) maintained Platini’s ban, though it reduced it from six to four years, saying the penalty initially imposed by FIFA’s ethics committee was “too severe.”
But the court said it was “not convinced” that the $2 million payment Platini received from FIFA in 2011 was legitimate.
The payment was ordered by world football’s disgraced ex-president Sepp Blatter, who was also brought down over the infamous transaction.
Infantino, speaking to reporters after the FIFA Council met in Mexico City, said that, as chief of football’s governing body, he must “respect the decision” by the CAS.
“On a personal level, of course I’m very sad about this decision. I’ve worked with Michel for the last nine years,” Infantino said.
“We did some great things in UEFA together and I really want to keep these positive memories.”
Platini, once the frontrunner to succeed Blatter as the most powerful man in the sport, said after the ruling he had no choice but to resign and would keep fighting in Swiss courts to prove his “probity.”
Asked whether FIFA would seek to recoup the $2 million, Infantino said: “Decisions have been taken today, it’s not the question.”
Wolfgang Niersbach, the former head of the German football federation and a member of UEFA’s executive committee, said the court’s decision was “very grave” for “my friend Michel.”
“Michel did exceptional work at UEFA. The end is sad. His decision to resign, I think, is the right one,” he said.
– ‘Right to fight’ –
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a FIFA Council member who lost to Infantino in the contest to run the global organization, said the court’s ruling must be respected.
“Michel has the right to fight for his name and we have to respect the decision,” he said.
FIFA’s disgraced executive committee was renamed the FIFA Council during a special congress in February that passed reforms and elected Infantino as president.
The reforms came into force on April 27, 60 days after the vote, but Infantino must now now make sure the regional confederations and national associations at the heart of the corruption take note.
The Council will meet for a second day on Tuesday to discuss the measures ahead of FIFA’s Congress in the Mexican capital on Thursday and Friday.
With tougher membership rules in force, the FIFA Council was discussing proposals on who sits on the body’s governance council and the ethics commission currently led by Domenico Scala.
The congress also faces prickly votes over the admission of Gibraltar and Kosovo that will take the world body to 211 members.
“It’s my first congress as president, the first congress of a new era in FIFA, focused on football development. It was a big part of the discussions today, how we could invest in football development,” Infantino said.
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