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UEFA launches Nations League Platini ‘fed up’ with calls to boycott 2018 WC

ASTANA, March 27, (Agencies): UEFA’s new Nations League competition will start from 2018 with successful sides from the tournament involving national teams able to earn places at the Euro 2020 finals, the Congress of European soccer’s governing body agreed on Thursday. Although the exact format has yet to be finalised, four slots for the 2020 European Championship will be made available from the new competition for sides that may have not advanced through the usual qualifying route. “Twenty teams will advance from the qualifying competition to the Euro 2020 finals — which are being played in 13 cities around Europe,” UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told delegates from all 54 member nations at the Congress in Kazakhstan, where the new event was unanimously approved. “That leaves four extra slots to be filled and they will come from four teams from the Nations League who have not otherwise qualified through the qualifiers.”

The Nations League will largely replace friendly internationals, which have become increasingly unpopular for many middle and lower-ranked teams around the continent. One feature of the new competition will be a promotion and relegation element with a four-team finals being held in odd years in one selected country. Wolfgang Niersbach of Germany, chairman of the National Teams Competition Committee said: “This is a big step for national teams in Europe and we hope that fans will support the new format.” UEFA has spent three years studying proposals for the new competition and while some fine-tuning remains, the concept is more or less agreed. UEFA President Michel Platini is fed up with politicians calling for a boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia over Moscow’s actions toward Ukraine.
Platini said Thursday he opposes any boycotts in sports, calling it “easy” for two US senators to have asked FIFA to remove the tournament from Russia.

“I’m starting to get fed up with people who are asking for boycotts,” Platini said when asked at a news conference about possible action against Russia. The Frenchman serves with Russian colleagues on UEFA and FIFA executive committees, including Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko on the board of football’s world governing body. Ukrainian official Hrihoriy Surkis is a UEFA vice president. “It isn’t normal to ask people who train all year round to boycott an event,” Platini said. “There are many people who don’t like sports who ask these types of things.” He recalled that some European politicians refused to attend 2012 European Championship matches in Ukraine to protest then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s government. “But in the final it seemed that I saw the prime minister of Spain and the prime minister of Italy,” Platini said of the decisive match in Kiev which Spain won 4-0. “Let politicians take care of politics. Sports needs to be a place that brings people together.”

The former France great said he resisted calls from intellectuals at home to snub the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, which was then ruled by a military regime. The practice of players being owned by secretive agents, businessmen or investment companies out to make a quick buck is not only damaging soccer but is an affront to human dignity and must be halted, Platini said. He called on FIFA to outlaw the practice worldwide and praised the English FA for being the first to ban what are called “third party ownership” transfers. Platini highlighted what he said was one of the greatest threats to the game’s integrity when he opened the 38th UEFA Congress in the futuristic capital of the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan. With FIFA president Sepp Blatter sitting in the front row of delegates at the Palace of Independence, Platini said: “If FIFA fails to act, we will address this issue in our own competitions in Europe.

“The UEFA Executive Committee has already adopted a position on this issue in principle, and we will see this through. “I do not want to be complicit in these practices, and at the moment I have the nasty feeling that I am.” Platini, one of the world’s greatest all-time players during his glittering career in the 1970s and 1980s when he won titles with France and Juventus, said he had gone on strike when he was a player, but the issues facing players today were far worse than what he had to endure. He told delegates from all 54 member associations: “I am thinking, here, of a problem which particularly worries me, that is the third party ownership of players, or TPO as it is sometimes known.

“I have been constantly warning for years that this practice, which is becoming increasingly widespread, is a danger to our sport. Platini told Reuters on Thursday he was the only person capable of beating Sepp Blatter in an election battle for the FIFA presidency. The 58-year-old Frenchman emphasised he had yet to decide whether to stand for world soccer’s top job next year but told Reuters in a briefing following the UEFA Congress in Kazakhstan: “There is only one person who can beat Blatter”. Asked who that was, Platini said: “Me”. The former France midfielder also said he told FIFA investigator Michael Garcia why, as a member of the organisation’s executive committee, he voted for Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Platini added he would “be the first” to fight any bid to stop Garcia probing corruption allegations surrounding FIFA and that his first thought when he saw Nicolas Anelka’s recent ‘quenelle’ salute was, “Oh-oh, do the English realise what a problem they have here?”. President of European soccer’s governing body UEFA since 2007, Platini said he would decide later this year whether to stand for the number one job at FIFA. Asked if he had enough backing outside Europe, he replied: “Yes I have many people who support me around the world but I have not yet decided to run. “I am happy being UEFA president and I still have to decide about FIFA. I will consult many people but it will be my personal decision in the end.” Swiss Blatter, 78, FIFA president since 1998, has dropped strong hints that he will stand for re-election for a fifth term but will not announce his intentions until the organisation’s annual Congress in Sao Paulo ahead of the World Cup in June.


 

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