Platini says nationalism, hooliganism threaten European football

Platini says nationalism, hooliganism threaten European football

PanARMENIAN.Net - UEFA President Michel Platini was warned that nationalism and hooliganism is threatening European football, the Associated Press reports.

Rising extremism in European society is an "insidious trend (that) can also be observed in our stadiums," Platini told UEFA's annual meeting on Tuesday, March 24.

The France great, who witnessed the Heysel Stadium tragedy in 1985 playing for Juventus, said recent violent incidents revived "certain images that I thought were a thing of the past."

"We need tougher stadium bans at European level and, I will say it again, the creation of a European sports police force," Platini said.

The UEFA leader will be re-elected unopposed later Tuesday, though he ignored commenting on the upcoming FIFA election and President Sepp Blatter.

Platini's address did echo Blatter calling himself captain of a FIFA ship in troubled waters, on his previous election day in June 2011 when the world football body was rocked by vote-buying scandals.

However, Platini described himself as a teammate, "not the captain of a ship that is being battered by a storm."

A printed version of the speech distributed earlier by UEFA suggested Platini would refer to a captain "clinging to the helm for dear life." However, Platini did not deliver the line, speaking minutes after Blatter's own speech was conciliatory toward UEFA and respectfully applauded by delegates.

Blatter appeared at a UEFA meeting for the first time since senior European officials told him last June in Sao Paulo that he had lost credibility leading the scandal-hit world governing body and should not stand for re-election.

"We should not have anger in our hearts," Blatter said on Tuesday, calling for unity. He did not refer to the May 29 election where he faces Michael van Praag of the Netherlands, Luis Figo of Portugal, and UEFA-backed Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

Platini's strongest message raised concern at increasing incidents of violence, and extreme views at club and national team matches.

"Unfortunately, I have two worrying developments to report today," Platini cautioned leaders of UEFA's 54 member federations.

Platini raised concerns of returning to "the dark days of a not-so-distant past — a past where hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots in certain European stadiums."

"Some of us experienced that past at first hand. In my case, it was exactly 30 years ago," said Platini who scored the only goal in the 1985 European Cup final in Brussels. The match was played after 39 fans died in the stadium in rioting provoked by Liverpool fans.

Platini urged public authorities to better support football which often felt "as if we have been left to fend for ourselves."

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