Former UEFA head Platini detained in Qatar World Cup probe

Qatar was named ro host the World Cup in a decision that triggered controversy over its suitability amid allegations of corruption. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019

Former UEFA head Platini detained in Qatar World Cup probe

  • Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges
  • Decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many

PARIS: The banned ex-UEFA chief Michel Platini was held for questioning Tuesday in connection with a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
The French football legend who led European football’s governing body from 2007 to 2015 was taken into custody by French anti-corruption police investigating alleged corruption in the 2010 vote to award the competition to Qatar.
Platini, 63, was in custody and questioned in Nanterre in the western Paris suburbs.

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READ MORE: TIMELINE: The trail of corruption allegations surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

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He denied wrongdoing and a statement from his representatives said the facts of the case were “unknown to him.”
The decision to name Qatar as 2022 World Cup hosts triggered allegations of corruption that ultimately sparked FIFA’s worst ever scandal.
France’s Office of the Financial Crimes Prosecutor (PNF) opened a preliminary investigation in 2016 into allegations of corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling surrounding the Qatar vote and also the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia.
According to Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president at the time, Qatar won hosting rights as a result of a deal with France, derailing FIFA’s own “diplomatic arrangement” whereby hosting rights would have gone to Russia in 2018 and then to the United States four years later.
The French investigation centers on alleged French intervention linked to Platini and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
According to France Football magazine, a “secret meeting” took place on November 23, 2010, at the Elysee Palace in Paris between Sarkozy, Qatar’s then-crown prince (now Emir) Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Platini, who at that time was both UEFA president and vice president of FIFA.
Just over a week later, FIFA voted to award Qatar hosting rights for the 2022 tournament.
Platini dismissed Blatter’s allegations as a “tissue of lies” and denies he was influenced by Sarkozy, whose adviser for sport, Sophie Dion, was also held for questioning Tuesday along with the former French captain.
Platini’s representatives said in a statement: “He has done absolutely nothing wrong and affirms that he is totally unrelated to the facts (of the case) which are unknown to him.”
Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, denied that the three-time Ballon d’Or winner had been placed under arrest by the police, as first reported, saying that he had been questioned “as a witness.”
Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s erstwhile chief of staff and former interior minister, was also called in for questioning Tuesday by France’s Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police.
The decision to award Qatar football’s highest-profile tournament ultimately sparked a wider fraud probe that led to the overthrow of Blatter and Platini and the arrest of a series of senior FIFA figures.
Platini led UEFA until 2015 when he was banned from football for four years for ethics violations including receiving a two-million Swiss francs ($2 million) payment from Blatter, who was suspended for six years.
Qatar has been accused of buying votes in its bid to stage the World Cup and a subsequent report by US independent investigator Michael Garcia unearthed an array of suspect financial dealings, many linked to Sandro Rosell, the ex-Barcelona president who served as a consultant for Qatar.
Platini was expected to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in 2016 before his fall from grace. He has been battling to clear his name ever since.


The Egyptian showjumper making the Arab world proud

Updated 07 August 2020

The Egyptian showjumper making the Arab world proud

  • Mohamed Zeyada has secured his place in sporting history by winning a spot at the Olympic Games
  • A big challenge for Zeyada has been Egypt’s longstanding ban on the import and export of horses

CAIRO: Whatever happens from here on, Mohamed Zeyada (also known as Mouda) will always be remembered as the Egyptian equestrian whose team achieved something that has eluded the country for more than 60 years: Securing a spot at the Olympic Games.

Now 25, Zeyada has been riding since the age of 5. “It all started when my parents and I were in Smouha Club in Alexandria, and the big sand arena full of horses caught my eye,” he said.

“As a child, I asked my mother if I could ride a horse, but of course she refused. That day, I wouldn’t leave the club until I got on top of one of those horses. I haven’t stopped riding since.”

Zeyada’s mother was terrified at first, but as his biggest supporter and manager, she plunged into the world of horseback riding.

“Despite her fears, my mother learned the ins and outs of the sport,” he said. “Now she’s an FEI level 3 jury, so she actually gets me asking her for rules.”

Egyptian rider Zeyada has been riding since the age of 5. (Supplied)

The passionate showjumper was only 6 when he took part in his first competition, which was hosted at Abdel Said’s private farm in Alexandria.

Together with Said, another member of the national showjumpers team, Zeyada would train on the difficult fences first.

With the constant support of his mother and Hesham Hatab, president of the Egyptian Equestrian Federation and of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, Zeyada was ready to move on to bigger things by the age of 13.

“Growing up, I used to idolize Karim El-Zoghby. Back then, Karim was in the Netherlands, and in order for me to get the training I needed to become a world-class rider, I too had to move there. Balancing between my studies and riding in the Netherlands required dedication, discipline and persistence,” Zeyada said.

“A few years later, joining pharmacy school didn’t make that task any easier. I remember skimming through 14 lectures a day just to catch up on my studies. My mom was my only motivation. Without her constant support, I wouldn’t have been able to tackle all these challenges.”

The passionate showjumper was only 6 when he took part in his first competition. (Supplied)

These were not the only challenges facing Zeyada. Egypt was long banned from importing and exporting horses, which prevented the ambitious young athlete from riding in World Cup qualifiers or sending his horses abroad.

“I felt imprisoned, stuck with no way out. Back then, I decided to put my training on hold just so I can focus on my studies. I felt that the time, money and effort spent on this sport weren’t taking me where I wanted to be,” he said.

“I didn’t quit, but I only participated in shows, and I can safely say this was surely one mistake I learned from.”

All the hard work finally paid off for Zeyada and the national team when the all-star quartet scored Egypt its first-ever Nations Cup win in Morocco. Shortly after, the team went on to the Olympics qualifier games.

“We haven’t had that much support. We were all training, riding and competing independently,” Zeyada said.

“It’s just recently that we started receiving some financial support to help ease the burden. We were able to prove that we can deliver results with very limited resources.”

While the dedicated rider looks calm and collected on the outside, he admits that the Tokyo Olympics will not be an easy task. (Supplied)

While the dedicated rider looks calm and collected on the outside, he admits that the Tokyo Olympics will not be an easy task. (It has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is now set to take place in July-August 2021.)

“Qualifying for the World Cup games is a win on its own. It’s something we haven’t done in 60 years, but it’s only the beginning,” Zeyada said.

“We’re going through extensive preparations. I just qualified my second horse, just to make sure I have a plan B in case anything goes wrong. My show plan is already set and communicated with all my team members, from my grooms to my vet and my blacksmith,” he added.

“Currently, I’m pampering my horses with the best training, health, grooming and happiness routines. Ultimately, the goal here is to get my horse, my partner, in tip-top shape, both physically and mentally.

“Winning isn’t possible without a partnership, a relationship with your horse. To be up there on top, everyone has to give 100 percent.”

* This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.