Saturday, February 6, 2010

Platini pleads for sanity

Here amid the palatial surroundings of the Palace of Culture and Science, a Stalinist skyscraper which towers over the Polish capital, UEFA President Michel Platini has just met the pressWarsaw. ahead of tomorrow's UEFA 2012 Qualifying Draw.

Platini's welcome to the tournament however w
as slightly stained by repetitive questions from English journalists about the John Terry affair.

Four separate reporters from football's homeland saw fit to probe him for his views on the matter, causing the UEFA President to eventually spout out,

"Je m'en fous completement"
- 'I really don't care!'

The subtext to these interrogations was a similar case involving Platini in 1982. For the World Cup in Spain, midfielder
Jean-Francois Larios had been picked for the French squad alongside his St Etienne teammate. Larios started France's opening 1-3 defeat to England, playing 73 minutes before being replaced by Jean Tigana, but was then promptly dropped by coach Michel Hidalgo after reports surfaced about an affair with Platini's wife.

The resemblances to Terry's travails were too juicy a cherry for England's ta
bloidy media to miss. But to tell the truth I felt embarrassed to be from the same country as them after they kept poking a man who was plainly was not going to take the bait.

Expect Fabio Capello to be grilled on Terrygate rather than th
e draw tomorrow. When the English tabloids choose to follow a story, they pursue it come what may. I can't stand Premier League press conferences where the clique of established hacks force their agenda through at the expense of a wider set of questions. Non Fleet Street reporters like me are frozen out with no time to ask what we want to: This is journalism rather than reporting. Today was supposed to be about Poland and the Ukraine's first chance to host a football tournament and the English hacks tried to make it about sex.
I am on Platini's side: The football is just more interesting and important than the tittle-tattle. And I began to wonder whether this sort of dis-repecting the game contributes to England's wider lack of clout in global football politics. We are trying to persuade the world, or more specifically the 24 members of FIFA's Executive Committee, including a certain M.Platini, to back us for the 2018 World Cup, but our journalists are showing no respect to the FOOTBALL above all.

"It's your problem in England," Platini finally said, half-exasperated.

"I thought I had come here to talk about the Euros, not the problems of each country's media." Hear, hear.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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