The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Former UEFA chief Johansson doubts Platini will challenge Blatter for FIFA presidency
LISBON, Portugal - UEFA honorary president Lennart Johansson says Michel Platini is unlikely to challenge Sepp Blatter next year for the FIFA presidency.
Next month in Brazil, Blatter will ask FIFA's 209 member federations to support his bid for a fifth term, seeming to close Platini's path to the job.
"I think he will do it (be a FIFA candidate) one day but not now." Johansson told The Associated Press about Platini's options.
Johansson said he had "an excellent relationship with Michel," and praised his successor as UEFA president.
Still, as the veteran of many battles with Blatter, Johansson wondered whether Platini is "really interested" in fighting for the FIFA leadership.
Johansson believes his successor as UEFA president "is happy to be in charge of the biggest confederation."
Platini has said he will consult UEFA's 54 members later this year before announcing his intentions.
The FIFA deadline for candidates is January, four months before the May 29 poll. UEFA's presidential election is next March.
The 84-year-old Johansson lost a tight election to Platini in 2007.
Blatter backed the former France great against his old rival in FIFA's often murky political wrangling.
In 1998, Blatter had Platini's support to beat Johansson and become FIFA president.
"I must say I admire him for what he has achieved," Johansson said of Blatter, though adding: "I can't understand him."
Blatter pledged to a UEFA audience in 2011 he would not seek office beyond the May 2015 ballot, when he will be aged 79.
"Whatever he does, I never get surprised," said Johansson. The Swede expects to be in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 11 when Blatter should confirm his re-election plans at FIFA's annual assembly.
Johansson compared the FIFA chief's staying power to Joao Havelange, who presided over world football from 1974-98. The Brazilian strongman then helped ensure his longtime general secretary Blatter won the succession battle.
"(Blatter) seems to me like he will be a new Havelange and he stayed until he was 96," Johansson said.
Havelange resigned from FIFA last year, seemingly to avoid being disciplined for taking millions of dollars in kickbacks from World Cup commercial deals.
In a new movie about FIFA's rise, "United Passions," Havelange and Blatter are portrayed by Sam Neill and Tim Roth, respectively. Gerard Depardieu plays French former FIFA president Jules Rimet who launched the World Cup in 1930.
Asked for observations on the movie project, Johansson smiled, rolled his eyes and declined comment.
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