Platini has warned against the return of Hooliganism to European Football

Platini has warned against the return of Hooliganism to European Football

The Uefa president Michel Platini has warned of the dangers of a return to the hooliganism of the eighties and a worrying rising tide of nationalism across Europe. Platini recalled his own experiences at Heysel almost 30 years ago and said he feared the “dark days of the not-so-distant past” were in danger of returning. The French midfielder was playing for Juventus at the European Cup final in Brussels in 1985 when 39 people, mainly Italian, died after a wall collapsed amid rioting that led to English teams being banned from Europe. “In recent months, we have all been struck by certain images that I thought were a thing of the past. Some of us experienced that past at first hand. In my case, it was exactly 30 years ago and nobody wants a repeat of such events,” said Platini, who is standing unopposed for a third term as president at Uefa’s Congress in Vienna. “We need tougher stadium bans at European level and, I will say it again, the creation of a European sports police force.”

The UEFA president has been calling for the creation of a European police force since he became president in 2007 and renewed his plea for more help from public authorities in tackling problems inside and outside stadiums. “In these battles that we are fighting, we feel as if we have been left to fend for ourselves somewhat. And yet, these are battles that can only be won with the help of the public authorities. We are not legislators, judges or police officers. We do what we can with the means available to us. I therefore renew my call for greater awareness of this issue among the public authorities, so that we can avoid reliving 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. Europe is seeing a rise in nationalism and extremism the likes of which we have not witnessed for a very long time,” said Platini. “This insidious trend can also be observed in our stadiums, as football is a reflection of society. Given its popularity, our sport is a barometer for the ills of our continent. And that barometer is pointing to some worrying developments.”

Platini, a one-time ally of Sepp Blatter who has latterly turned his back on the 79-year-old and called for a change at the top of world football’s governing body, obliquely criticised the longstanding Fifa president. Blatter has repeatedly described himself as the “captain” of the Fifa ship and four years ago, in a speech in which he promised his current term would be his last, said he was “captain of the ship in troubled waters bringing it back on the right route”.

Thanking delegates from 54 Uefa member countries for re-electing him unopposed for another four years, Platini said: “I regard myself as a simple team-mate – at most your captain. But not the captain of a ship that is being battered by a storm.”

Blatter attended the Uefa Congress in his role as Fifa president, coming face to face with his three rivals in May’s election: the Dutch FA president Michael van Praag, the Jordanian Fifa vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein and the Portuguese former world footballer of the year Luis Figo all of whom are being backed by Uefa. Blatter said: “Football shall be united, sport shall be united when it comes to boycotts because boycott has never given any results. We have to pay attention to political interferences. The autonomy of sport must be guaranteed.”

After attracting derision for last week appearing to suggest that football could bring peace to the Crimea through the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Blatter returned to the subject in an otherwise low-key address.

“Football is a symbol of unity. I am convinced that more than ever the hope of mankind rests not only on the slogans of Fifa but also on peace and solidarity. Maybe we cannot change the world but at least we can help change the world and help in certain conflict situations.” A top football prediction can only see the end of corruption and foul play in the game of football only once we are rid of Blatter, but even then it might not be too different!