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Michel Platini formally withdraws his bid for FIFA presidency

Michel Platini has formally withdrawn his candidacy for the FIFA presidency and said he will dedicate himself to overturning his eight-year ban.

Platini, who was suspended by FIFA's ethics committee last month, told The Associated Press the deadline for the Feb. 26 election is too short and renders his candidacy impossible.

"I'm withdrawing from the race for FIFA presidency," Platini said. "The timing is not good for me. I don't have the means to fight on equal terms with the other candidates. I have not been given the chance to play the game. Bye bye FIFA, bye bye FIFA presidency."

Platini's bid to succeed Sepp Blatter and take football's top job had been put on hold because of a payment he received from his former mentor back in 2011.

Blatter and Platini were banned for eight years last month for conflict of interest in a 2 million Swiss franc payment deal that is also the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland.

Platini said he still hopes to clear his name at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The 60-year-old Frenchman was not authorised to bypass FIFA's appeal procedure, which says he will only be able to turn to CAS once FIFA's appeal committee will have ruled on the case.

"I've spent more time in hearing rooms than on football pitches speaking about 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or football news,'' said Platini, refusing to call the past three months the most difficult period of his life. "I'm taking this philosophically, let's wait and see what happens. But injustice is revolting me and I'm trying to fight it."

Platini and Blatter were cleared of corruption charges in December but suspended for a series of breaches including conflict of interest. But Platini, who worked at FIFA as Blatter's special adviser from 1998 to 2002, said he has no regret over the payment.

"I can't have any regret in that story because things fell upon my head while I haven't done anything wrong," Platini said during the interview in a Nyon hotel. "I'm struggling to understand what happened, unless there was a will somewhere to prevent me from bidding."

Platini was long seen as a likely successor at the top of world football to Sepp Blatter, whose first successful campaign as FIFA president he supported in 1998. But Platini finally chose not to stand against Blatter when he stood for re-election again in 2015.

It was only after FIFA was plunged into its worst crisis that Platini clearly distanced himself from Blatter, calling on the FIFA boss stand down. After the arrests of several senior football officials on fraud charges, Blatter finally announced that he would step aside and Platini launched his bid, vowing to restore "dignity" at the top of the governing body.

Platini however said he remains a strong supporter of Blatter "for many things."

"He is a great personality. He has done many beautiful things in football," Platini said. "He also did bad things, certainly. I've supported him, I worked with him. I sincerely wish him to be at FIFA's congress [in February] to bid goodbye to FIFA."

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