French Soccer Legend Visits Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Michel Platini–one of the world’s best known former football players–ended on Thursday a two-day visit to Armenia apparently linked to his bid to become the new head of UEFA–the game’s European governing body.

The former France international–who had inspired his nation to its first-ever victory in European championships in 1984–held talks with the chairman of the Armenian Football Federation–Ruben Hayrapetian–and inaugurated new UEFA-funded soccer pitches for children in Yerevan. He was also received by Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan who thanked him for supporting the "development of football in Armenia."

Platini said he urged the Armenian government to pay "particular attention" to children and youths practicing the sport. "Armenia means a lot to a Frenchman like me because a number of soccer players of Armenian descent have played for the French national side and helped it win the World Cup [in 1998,]" he said. "There are also Armenian journalists–singers and other famous people in France."

Platini–who is now deputy chairman of the French Football Federation–faces an uphill in trying to unseat UEFA’s incumbent president–Lennart Johansson–in elections scheduled for next January. The Armenian Football Federation–a member of UEFA–will also take part in them and its chairman announced that it will back the 51-year-old Frenchman.

"I think it is clear to everyone that the relationship between Michel Platini and Armenia’s is not only businesslike but friendly–Hayrapetian told a joint news conference with Platini. "The Football Federation of Armenia will definitely vote for Michel Platini."

Platini is still revered by the French as well as millions of supporters of Italy’s most popular soccer club–Juventus–for which he successfully played in the early 1980s.


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