GENEVA (AP) — Michel Platini has launched his campaign to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president, aiming to give the scandal-hit governing body "the dignity and the position it deserves."
Platini, the UEFA president and a FIFA vice president, wrote to member federations in Europe on Wednesday that he will stand in the election and counts on their support.
The former France great is the first serious contender to declare his intentions ahead of an Oct. 26 deadline to apply. The FIFA election is on Feb. 26.
"There are times in life when you have to take your destiny into your own hands," wrote Platini, who turned 60 last month. "I am at one of those decisive moments, at a juncture in my life and in events that are shaping the future of FIFA."
Platini has for years been the obvious candidate to succeed Blatter, his mentor in FIFA politics. But a rift between the long-time allies deepened when Blatter broke a promise to leave office in 2015.
Last year, Platini chose not to oppose Blatter who won a fifth presidential term on May 29. Four days later, Blatter announced his resignation plans under pressure from American and Swiss investigations of corruption implicating FIFA.
"However, recent events force the supreme governing body of world football to turn over a new leaf and rethink its governance," said Platini, who has not been linked to any wrongdoing in the two federal cases.
Still, Platini has been criticized for voting for Qatar as 2022 World Cup host. He seemed to be pressured by then-president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, ahead of the December 2010 ballot.
In his letter Wednesday, Platini said he wanted a FIFA that is "exemplary ... that is respected, liked and of the people."
Platini chose to run after getting encouragement from senior FIFA officials last week in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Five of the six confederation leaders, including Platini, plus the influential Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait were there for the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw.
Platini then traveled to Philadelphia for the Gold Cup final on Sunday, and briefed leaders of the North American regional body CONCACAF on his plans. They included FIFA executive committee colleague Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation president.
The U.S. body was among the five FIFA members which nominated Prince Ali bin al-Hussein to challenge Blatter two months ago. The Jordanian prince was publicly supported by Platini but Blatter had pockets of support across Europe in a 133-73 victory.
Platini met the prince in the south of France last week and discussed the FIFA election.
On Wednesday, Prince Ali criticized his former ally as "not good for FIFA."
"FIFA is engulfed in scandal," the prince said in a statement. "We must stop doing business as usual. The practice of back-room, under-the-table deals must end."
Prince Ali, whose FIFA vice presidency expired in May, said he would talk with FIFA member federations "in the coming week."
"What is clear is that FIFA needs new, independent leadership, untainted by the practices of the past," said Prince Ali, who was maneuvered out of his FIFA seat by Asian soccer leaders after a single four-year term.
Another former FIFA vice president, Chung Mong-joon of South Korea, suggested last week he will run and doubted Platini was serious about wanting the job. Former Brazil great Zico and Liberia federation president Musa Bility have said they will seek the five nominations needed to be a candidate.
Diego Maradona also said he wants to lead FIFA, although the colorful former Argentina great is unlikely to be taken seriously.
The most detailed manifesto by recent presidential hopefuls was issued by Jerome Champagne, the former FIFA international relations director whose exit in 2010 was engineered with Platini's support.
Champagne criticized UEFA as elitist and for taking players and resources from other continents, but failed to get nominated for the May election.
Platini signaled in his letter he would champion all of FIFA's 209 members.
As UEFA leader since 2007, Platini has helped smaller countries: By adding eight teams to the now-24 nation European Championship; changing qualifying routes for UEFA competitions; and awarding them hosting rights for Euro 2020, Europa League finals and Super Cup matches.
"I gave all the national associations — big and small — the place they deserved," Platini wrote to the 53 FIFA voters in Europe. "Now, I aspire to do the same at world level, to offer all national associations a common cause."