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MOSCOW, October 27. /TASS/. General Secretary of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Gianni Infantino will withdraw from the race to replace Sepp Blatter as the FIFA president if UEFA Head Michel Platini takes part in the election, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Tuesday.
Mutko, who is a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, said: "He [Infantino] has been working in football for the last 15 years and knows football matters. If Platini is unable to participate [in the FIFA presidential election], we’ll support our European candidate. If Michel returns, Infantino will withdraw his candidature," Mutko said.
UEFA's Executive Committee unanimously agreed on Monday to support current UEFA General Secretary Infantino as a candidate for the forthcoming FIFA presidential election, following consultations within Europe and with national federations from across the global football community.
‘We discussed this yesterday for a long time. But we’re full of resolve to support Platini. This is an outstanding footballer without doubt. This is the person who could do everything today for managing world football. But he was suspended [from football activity]. That is why, this option [with Infantino] was adopted," the Russian sports minister said.
The FIFA presidential election will take place at the organization’s congress in Zurich in February 2016.
Infantino and UEFA Chief Platini are among eight candidates to succeed Blatter as the FIFA president. Blatter who has been suspended from all footballing activity for 90 days along with Platini and FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke in a corruption probe will step down after an election on February 26.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland announced on September 23 that it had opened criminal proceedings against FIFA President Blatter "on suspicion of criminal mismanagement as well as - alternatively - on suspicion of misappropriation."
Among a number of corruption allegations, Blatter is suspected of a disloyal payment of 2 million Swiss francs to UEFA President Platini in February 2011, the OAG announced.
"On 25 September 2015, representatives of the OAG interrogated the defendant Joseph Blatter following a meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee. At the same time, Michel Platini was heard as a person asked to provide information," the statement said adding that Blatter’s office had been searched and relevant data was seized.
The FIFA Executive Committee held a two-day session on September 24-25 in Switzerland’s Zurich discussing among other important things an agenda for the FIFA’s extraordinary session, which will see the election of the organization’s new president. The session also heard a report from Francois Carrard, the chairman of the 2016 FIFA Reform Committee, which was set up on July 20.
An unprecedented corruption scandal flared up in FIFA in the morning of May 27, one day before the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, as seven of the organization’s high-ranking officials were arrested in Switzerland on bribery, money laundering and corruption charges. The scandal involves two separate criminal proceedings.
In September 2014, Blatter announced that Platini would be the chief coordinator of Russia’s organization of the 2018 World Cup on behalf of the FIFA international football. Blatter said that Platini would chair Bureau 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, which is a coordinating body on the organization of the global football event.