PARIS: Suspended UEFA chief Michel Platini on Thursday withdrew from the race to become FIFA president, telling L'Equipe that he will concentrate on clearing his name instead.
"I will not present myself for the presidency of FIFA. I am withdrawing my candidature. I no longer have the time nor the means to go to the voters, to meet people, to fight against the other candidates," said Platini in reference to the January 26 deadline for nominations to succeed Sepp Blatter.
"In withdrawing, I am dedicating myself to my defence."
Platini and Blatter were suspended for eight years by FIFA's ethics committee over a 2 million Swiss franc ($2 million/1.8 million euro) payment made to Platini in 2011 for work carried out between 1999 and 2002.
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The 60-year-old Platini added that his eight-year ban has made it impossible for him to have any kind of constructive campaign to take the sport's most powerful job.
The new FIFA president will be revealed on February 26.
"It is a question of the calendar, but not only that. How can you win an election when you are prevented from campaigning?," he told French sports daily L'Equipe in the interview to be published in full on Friday.
Platini added that when Blatter decided not to run again for a post he had held since 1998, he was busily garnering support for the FIFA presidency.
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"I had received 150 declarations of support -- 100 official letters from federations and 50 promises. All in two days."
Platini said he will concentrate his resources on an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the FIFA electoral commission, which is presided over by Domenico Scala and "claimed that I had falsified accounts".
He added: "I have fought like I have always fought in my life but I have not been given the opportunity to compete this time round."
Platini's decision to give up on his dream of becoming FIFA president leaves five declared candidates.
They are Asian football head Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain, South African politician and tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, former FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, UEFA general-secretary Gianni Infantino and Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA assistant general secretary from France.
Platini, a FIFA vice president, and 79-year-old Blatter were banned from all football-related acivities by FIFA's ethics committee on December 21.
Platini insisted there was nothing illegal in his oral contract, he said, was agreed with Blatter. The salary agreement was however never disclosed in FIFA documentation until the payment was made in 2011.
"I'm struggling to understand. Why? How did we get to this? I did some work, I asked to be paid, I sent an invoice, I was paid, I paid my taxes on that. That was in 2011," he told AFP when the ban was announced.
"There was a debt that was settled, full stop! Then, in 2015, the Swiss court wanted more information.
"Then it took off at FIFA and a lot of people at FIFA are happy that this issue happened.
"And here I am, suspended from all football-related activity for eight years."
Platini repeated his suspicions that the timing of the ban was a deliberate attempt to prevent him from standing in February's election.
"What was the FIFA ethics committee doing between 2011 when I was paid and 2015? Was it sleeping? Suddenly it wakes up," he scoffed.
"Ah yes, it wakes up in a FIFA election year when I'm a candidate. It's amazing!"