Empire XI: With Sepp Blatter Out, Michel Platini Waits In The Wings


Staff Writer/Columnist

Sepp Blatter’s tenure as FIFA President will finally come to an end once the FIFA congress convenes to elect his successor. In that indeterminable amount of time, there will be GOP levels of politicking and campaigning amongst what should be a wide open field of potential candidates that currently includes Jordanian princes and former Newcastle United wingers.

Meanwhile, away from that scrum, the puppetmaster waits for his chance.

Given his experience making multinational and multi-continental power plays as President of UEFA, but more importantly his role as a diplomat, Michel Platini is the early favorite to become FIFA’s next president. Philippe Auclair wrote extensively on this for The Blizzard in 2012.

Last year, he split his confederation by getting its members to support Luis Figo and Michael van Praag’s campaigns. Figo and van Praag essentially said the same thing throughout their campaigns before withdrawing and backing Prince Ali. We saw Bob Ley summon Omar (the greatest character of the greatest television drama ever, The Wire) in reference to Prince Ali’s attempt to unseat Blatter the clean way…only to end up like Wee-Bay.

No one was going to beat Blatter in an election without vowing to maintain the status quo which is a suicidal strategy on all counts. But Ali is not on the periphery because he came at the king and missed — he is on the periphery for the same reason he believes he is in the fold.

“I am at the disposal of all the national associations who want a change,” Ali told CNN yesterday. That is a limited set with maybe North America and South America serving as his base. Platini can carry Europe simply by promising reforms that give them enough semblance of power. But Asia is the goldmine, and with his close ties to Qatar, Platini has staked the territory. That’s 99 votes off the jump, almost ending the race before it begins.

So why wait?

Qatar 2022 never happens without Platini’s blessing/Sarkozy’s polite request. With Swiss authorities remaining focused on the bidding process for the next two World Cups, Platini can be in play. His business relationship with Qatar have grown stronger with Qatari-owned Al Jazeera securing the rights to the Champions League and Europa League. In turn, Qatar Sports Investments, owners of Paris Saint-Germain, named his son Laurent as its European legal advisor.

The pieces to the same sort of scheme that has crippled CONCACAF are in place in Europe. Just like in the Caribbean, the man pulling the strings is being tipped to become the next FIFA President.

Empire XI

1. The New York Cosmos can secure the NASL Spring Season title this weekend if Minnesota United and the Tampa Bay Rowdies each fail to win their matches. That is the ideal scenario for the Cosmos, who would be able to rotate their squad for the season finale against the Jacksonville Armada on June 13th in preparation for their U.S. Open Cup tie against New York City FC four days later.

2. The Cosmos and the Rochester Rhinos are the two lower division sides that are most likely to defeat their MLS counterparts in Round Four of the Open Cup. They are also the only undefeated professional soccer teams in America. Considering the positive momentum USL generated by having all seven of its teams defeat their NASL opponents in the third round, a matchup between these two sides would be as compelling as another Cosmos-New York Red Bulls match.

3. Good to see the Cosmos give up a goal to the Cuban National Team on Tuesday. Seriously. When I was at Ithaca College, I heard a story about how the volleyball team traveled to the Caribbean and played some of the local teams but were beating them so badly at first that there were legitimate concerns amongst their officials about whether it would be worth it to keep funding the teams. Eventually, Ithaca learned its lesson and knew when to take it easy on their opponents. The Cosmos could have tried to make this a true rout, but it would have taken away from the occasion.

4. Sebastian Giovinco recorded two assists to lead Toronto FC to a 3–1 win against the San Jose Earthquakes. Giovinco was named Player of the Week but did not receive a call-up to the Italian National Team for its Euro Qualifier against Croatia. Italian National Team Head Coach Antonio Conte said Giovinco was still on his radar but he has not recalled the forward since he joined MLS.

5. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds defeated the Harrisburg City Islanders 6–5 last Saturday night. The eleven goals shared by these in-state rivals are only six less than the Philadelphia Union’s total for the entire regular season.

6. Orlando City Forward Bryan Rochez scored a brace for Honduras in their 4–3 win against Uzbekistan in their first match at the U20 World Cup Monday in New Zealand. Rochez has yet to score for Orlando City in six appearances and the team only has 16 goals through 13 matches. If the young-DP can find his form at the tournament, the expansion side can make a run for the playoffs…or cash in if European teams become interested in him.

7. The New York Red Bulls have one win in their last seven games and are suddenly closer to the red line than the Supporters Shield. The Red Bulls held their own on the road against Seattle Sounders FC only to come away with nothing thanks to Chad Barrett’s goal. Only one of the team’s next five opponents sits above them in the league table so this next stretch of matches will either set things straight or cause serious doubts about this team’s status as a contender in the East.

8. I covered the NYCFC-Houston Dynamo match for MLSsoccer.com last Saturday. For the sidebar, I made sure to ask some of the veteran players about to see if their past experience can help young players get through the team’s winless streak. One quote that did not make the story comes from Mix Diskerud.

“There’s certainly been some players here who have been in the game a long time and have been through some rough patches and this is certainly one of them” Diskerud said. “I feel like once we get things going and start winning games, it’s going to look really good.”

9. Diskerud’s recent evolution into becoming a more two-way midfielder is somewhat disappointing for those who wanted him to become America’s next number ten. However, he attributed his efforts at becoming a better contributor on the defensive side of the ball to NYCFC Head Coach Jason Kreis’ instruction and a better understanding of the game.

Sometimes they’re creating more chances and you got to help out more and the times that we are pushing forward, our backline is pushing forward, I want to be more creative and push up in the field and help the attackers, so I’ve had to adapt,” Diskerud said.

Kwando Poku came on as a substitute and became NYCFC’s midfield shuttler (hence the comparisons to Manchester City’s Yaya Toure), allowing Diskerud to remain in advanced positions and combine with the forwards as the second half wore on.

10. Jeb Brovsky’s forward runs from right back generated the team’s two best chances in the second half. NYCFC’s performance in the second half was more reflective of how the team wants to play going forwad. However, the challenge for Kreis and Sporting Director Claudio Reyna is to figure out how many of the current players can they afford to wait on. There is an open DP slot and high expectations, not an environment that breeds patience in the status quo.

11. Spanish media is treating Athletic Bilbao Right Back Andoni Iraola’s departure for MLS as a foregone conclusion. Iraola’s contract is set to expire so he can join as a free agent during the Summer Window but there has yet to be an official link between an MLS club and Iraola. That is not to say that demand is low, international quality right backs are a luxury in MLS.

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