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In Exile on His Home Turf, Michel Platini Runs Out the Clock on His Ban

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“I don’t know what exactly,” he said, “but I will be back.”

First, though, he wants to clear his name.

Nevermind that a FIFA appeals panel, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Switzerland’s Supreme Court all upheld the four-year ban issued to Platini, France’s former soccer captain, for secretly arranging for a $2 million backdated salary payment from FIFA’s former president, Sepp Blatter. The details of the payment, which Platini continues to insist was not illegal, emerged from a tip from a FIFA insider to the Swiss authorities — an example, Platini insisted, of a “great injustice,” but also of a longstanding plot to block him from running FIFA.

Lawyers are pressing Platini’s arguments in four different current cases, including one at the European Court of Human Rights.

For now, however, he remains only a consumer of the game he loves. The Women’s World Cup is the second major event on French soil from which Platini has been barred as a result of the ban. He missed the 2016 European Championship, too; that tournament took place only months after his ouster was confirmed, when the feelings of embarrassment and helplessness were at their most intense, he said, and when going outside meant disguising his appearance.

“You know, I’m Michel Platini — everybody knows me, everybody knows me,” he said, repeating the final clause to emphasize how hard he had found those early months. “The way people looked at me was totally different, that I was corrupted, like the others. You don’t go outside. You put on a hat. You put on glasses.”

For four decades before his self-inflicted troubles, Platini’s life in soccer had been lived out in public, ever since he emerged as a supremely talented attacking midfielder in the mid-1970s. A decorated career in which he played the lead role in bringing France its first major international title — the 1984 European Championship — led to a stint as national team coach and to a job as the head of the organizing committee for the 1998 World Cup in France. That led to his role advising Blatter, whose assistance helped Platini secure the presidency of European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, in 2006.

But in late 2015, it all came to a stop.

“When you wake up in the morning and you don’t know where to go after 50 years of work, and where not to go because you have no office, because you are banned from everything, you are out of UEFA, you have no work or nothing, what do you do?” Platini said.


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