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French football legend Platini withdraws from FIFA presidency race

Valery Hache / AFP | Platini has been fighting corruption allegations

Michel Platini is giving up his bid to become the next FIFA president, he told the Associated Press (AP) and leading French sports daily L’Equipe on Thursday.

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Platini told AP he remained determined to overturn the eight-year ban he was handed by FIFA's ethics committee last month, but that the deadline for the February 26 election was too short and made his candidacy impossible.

"I'm withdrawing from the race for FIFA presidency," Platini told AP. "The timing is not good for me. I don't have the means to fight on equal terms with the other candidates. I have not been given the chance to play the game. Bye bye FIFA, bye bye FIFA presidency."

Platini's bid to succeed Sepp Blatter and take football's top job was put on hold because of a payment he received from his former mentor back in 2011. Blatter and Platini were banned for eight years last month for conflict of interest in the two million Swiss franc (£1.35 million) payment deal that is also the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland.

Platini said he still hopes to clear his name at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The 60-year-old Frenchman was not authorized to bypass FIFA's appeal procedure, which states that he will only be able to turn to CAS once FIFA's appeal committee has ruled on the case.

"I've spent more time in hearing rooms than on football pitches speaking about 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or football news," said Platini, refusing to call the past three months the most difficult period of his life. "I'm taking this philosophically, let's wait and see what happens. But injustice is revolting me and I'm trying to fight it."

Platini and Blatter were cleared of corruption charges in December but suspended for a series of breaches including conflict of interest. But Platini, who worked at FIFA as Blatter's special adviser from 1998 to 2002, said he has no regret over the payment.

In an interview with French daily L’Equipe, due to be published in full on Friday, Platini said he didn’t “have the time or the resources to speak to electors, meet people and fight other candidates”.

“In pulling out, I have made the choice to dedicate my time to defending myself” against the corruption allegations, he said. “I’ve got to focus my time on defending myself in a case that doesn’t even have any allegations of corruption, nothing at all.”

“How can I win a campaign if am actively prevented from campaigning?” the former French international football legend said. “I’ve fought these allegations like I’ve fought for everything all my life, but I have been denied the possibility of competing this time.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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