Michel Platini admits ‘skulduggery’ to rig 1998 World Cup draw

We weren’t going to go through the bother of six years organizing the World Cup if we could not pull off a few little tricks said we weren’t going to go through the bother of six years organizing the World Cup if we could not pull off a few little tricks admitted Michel Platini. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 May 2018

Michel Platini admits ‘skulduggery’ to rig 1998 World Cup draw

  • We organized the schedule so, if we finished first in our group and Brazil first in theirs, the teams could not meet before the final: Platini
  • At the time, the selection process of top seeds for the eight groups had provoked accusations of a “European conspiracy” by then-Brazil coach Mario Zagallo

PARIS: Disgraced Michel Platini has sensationally admitted to a “little skulduggery” in rigging the draw to ensure Brazil and France could not meet until the final of the 1998 World Cup, where he was organizing committee president.
“We organized the schedule so, if we finished first in our group and Brazil first in theirs, the teams could not meet before the final,” France great Platini told Radio Bleu Sport in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, highlights of which the station tweeted on Friday.
The revelation comes at a time when Platini is banned from football for receiving a “disloyal payment” of two million Swiss francs (1.7 million euros, $2 million) when he was head of UEFA from disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
The draw took place in Marseille on December 4, 1997 and was presided over by FIFA’s then-general secretary: Blatter.
“Look, we were at home, you have to make the most of things, we weren’t going to go through the bother of six years organizing the World Cup if we could not pull off a few little tricks,” said Platini, a former midfield star for Saint Etienne, Juventus and France. “Do you think other hosts didn’t do the same at their World Cups?“
A France-Brazil final “was everyone’s dream,” said Platini.
Brazil were placed in Group A and France in Group C, ensuring they wouldn’t meet until the final, as long as both won their group.
Not everyone was happy with the fairly transparent plan, though.
At the time, the selection process of top seeds for the eight groups had provoked accusations of a “European conspiracy” by then-Brazil coach Mario Zagallo.
Following frantic negotiations behind the scenes, six European countries and two South Americans — Brazil and Argentina — were picked, with Africans Nigeria missing out.
Ahead of the draw, Zagallo had complained that French organizers would “do everything to ensure Brazil are not world champions,” insisting the seeding process was fixed to ensure the Selecao would face two European sides in the group stages: they drew Norway and Scotland, as well as Morocco — a fairly easy draw by anyone’s standards.
But their bitter rivals Argentina drew the only group with just one European team, Croatia, as well as Jamaica and Japan.
France got Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, finished top and then beat Paraguay, Italy (on penalties) and Croatia on route to the final, playing both their quarter-final and semifinal at the Stade de France national stadium where the title-decider would also be held.
Brazil won their group and beat Chile, Denmark and the Netherlands (on penalties) before losing the final 3-0 to France.
While teams had been allocated to specific groups at previous tournaments, it had typically been to keep apart countries from the same continental federation.
At Italia 1990, when there were just 24 teams in six groups of four, the top seeds were assigned in an way that kept Italy in Rome and had the added bonus for organizers that England, and their notorious fans, were isolated on Sardinia.
England were placed in the “London group” at both the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96, ensuring they would play all their games at Wembley.


Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver proves childhood dreams can come true

Updated 21 November 2019

Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver proves childhood dreams can come true

  • Reema Juffali will make history this weekend when she competes in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, the support race to the Diriyah E-Prix
  • Reema Juffali: When I got my first car in Boston in the US I would just take it out on drives whenever I needed time to think or I was stressed

RIYADH: From playing with toy cars to becoming a professional racing driver is a dream for many children but one that few achieve.

However, for Reema Juffali of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the fulfilment of that childhood ambition will be especially poignant when she becomes the first woman from the Kingdom to compete in the Kingdom.

It will be yet another watershed moment for Saudi Arabia, as Reema takes to the track this weekend (on November 22 and 23) competing in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, the support race to the Diriyah E-Prix at the Diriyah Circuit, part of the epic Diriyah Season, a month-long festival of sport.

And for Reema it will be the latest chapter in a love affair with cars that began as a young child.

She said: “Somewhere in the album there will be pictures of me driving in my dad’s lap or waiting in the car on the driver’s seat making car sounds.

“I was always a very active child, I didn’t do ballet I did karate. I didn’t play with Barbies I liked little model cars so from a very young age. I liked things that weren’t simply classed as feminine. My parents encouraged me to go after what I wanted to do, I played in a football team, I played basketball, I played baseball, I tried all these different sports and I find happiness in sports.

“Cars was something though I was always interested in, I liked reading about them, what new cars were coming out, all the classic cars. It wasn’t until I until I went to college that I started watching and learning about racing. Ever since then it has been a question mark ‘how can I do this?’. 

“When I was my teens the movie Transformers came out and so my friend gave me a nickname of ‘Opty’ after Optimus Prime because she knew how much I liked cars.

“When I got my first car in Boston in the US I would just take it out on drives whenever I needed time to think or I was stressed so I nicknamed my car Opty too. Being behind the wheel is my happy place.”

Reema made history by becoming the first Saudi female race licence holder to compete in the TRD 86 Cup at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi in October last year, taking second place in the Silver Category and fourth overall. Her previous racing experience also includes the MRF Challenge in India.

That moment came just months after Saudi Arabia announced that women could drive as part of the Kingdom’s evolving social landscape. For Reema it was a pivotal moment.

She said: “I knew the day was going to come when women would be able to drive. If you had asked me when I was 12 I was adamant I was going to get behind the wheel, then I left and moved abroad and got the chance to drive and I thought how great it would be to drive at home.

“For me it wasn’t about the fact that women could drive, it was what driving brings, that freedom and that independence. It was an emotional moment, I had to celebrate with a drive and the first time I saw another women on the roads I waved to her. My sister asked if I knew her and I was like ‘no, I’m just so happy to see another woman driving’.”

Reema made one of her first appearances in the F4 British Championships at Brands Hatch last October. Just last month she was back at UK circuit driving for Double R Racing, the Woking-based team formed in 2004 by 2007 Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen and his race manager, Steve Robertson.

For the 27-year-old though competing in Saudi Arabia, on the Diriyah Circuit in the heart of the UNESECO World Heritage site, will be something special, especially competing in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, the support race to the opening double header for the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

She said: “I am very excited, I never thought this day would come, or at least I didn’t know when and it came a lot sooner than expected. I’m a year into racing and here I am now about to race at home which is an incredible feeling.

“My family are very happy and excited. I told them I was going to be racing in Saudi and its going to be a big thing for me and us and they were like ‘that’s nice’ and then when it was official I sort of dawned on them and there were like ‘oh my, are you ready for this?’ I think I am.

“I came to racing quite late in life, some people start karting at the age of six, they have a path for them, for me my path was go study, then go work and it wasn’t an option for me to drop it all and race. Thankfully I got the opportunity to try this itching passion that I had for cars and just drive on the tracks, and then just give it everything.

“That was last October and it’s been very positive since then. I have a lot of learning to do, it is still the beginning for me, but it’s just been an amazing experience for me. I want to be a better driver and grow, at the end of the day I love it and I want to improve, I am doing it because of that.”

Reema also hopes her debut in the Kingdom will inspire other young men and women to get behind the wheel and consider a career in motorsports.

She said: “With Formula E and the Saudi Dakar Rally it’s amazing to see what is happening with motorsport and the opportunities that are opening up for Saudi drivers, especially girls.

“For me connecting with other women is definitely a plus. Having other people to look up to, especially for me at a younger age, would have been amazing. Now I get the chance to influence and if I can do that for one gender great, if I can for both genders even better and I feel like I am doing that.

“The questions I am getting from a lot of people such as ‘how do you do this, how can I do this?’ are from both men and women. It is a whole new world of motorsports for everybody in Saudi Arabia and they just want to learn and understand how its going to work and how they can be a part of it.