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UEFA chief Platini throws down gauntlet to German Chancellor Merkel

From CNN's Pedro Pinto
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Fri May 18, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Platini confident German Chancellor Merkel would attend Euro 2012 final if Germany playing
  • Merkel and other European leaders have threatened boycott over political situation in Ukraine
  • Platini stands firm on UEFA's new Financial Fair Play Rules
  • UEFA chief remains opposed to introduction of goal-line technology

(CNN) -- UEFA president Michel Platini is confident German Chancellor Angela Merkel would attend the final of Euro 2012 in Ukraine -- if Germany reach the tournament's showpiece in Kiev on July 1.

Together with European Union commissioners and several other Western politicians, Merkel has threatened to boycott the month-long tournament, which Ukraine is co-hosting with Poland next month, in sympathy with jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

"I'm not worried about the situation," Platini told CNN in an exclusive interview ahead of Saturday's Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea in the German city.

"The politicians they are in their role and the Ukrainians they are in their role. I'm in my role and that is not to do politics, it's not to do religion and not to interfere in everything.

"That means they can say what they want -- we continue to organize the Euro. If Germany is in final of the Euro I would be sure that Madame Merkel would come to the final."

Such a scenario -- and it is very possible given Germany are one of the tournament favorites -- would represent something of a u-turn for Merkel given earlier this month she told the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament, that in Ukraine and Belarus "people are still suffering under dictatorship and repression."

Champions League means big money
Next month sees the start of football's European Championships, arguably the toughest competition in world football. Ukraine will co-host the event with Poland, but it has been overshadowed by the treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been in prison since last October on charges of abuse of power. Next month sees the start of football's European Championships, arguably the toughest competition in world football. Ukraine will co-host the event with Poland, but it has been overshadowed by the treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been in prison since last October on charges of abuse of power.
Europe's Ukrainian dilemma
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Road to the Champions League final

No regrets

While admitting UEFA had taken a risk in giving Euro 2012 to Poland and Ukraine, Platini insisted he had no regrets about the European governing body's decision to award the tournament to the two Eastern European neighbors.

"Four years ago when all the slides were red, red, red, red, red -- stadium, roads, accommodation was red, red, red, red it was not easy. OK we took the risk but I say it was a good risk."

As well as dealing with the political fall-out from Ukraine's strained relationship with the West, UEFA is implementing a set of financial regulations -- Financial Fair Play (FFP) - that are designed to compel most teams to live within their means.

The FFP rules apply now but will come fully into force in 2014.

But this new stringent financial regime has raised the question as to whether UEFA would prevent a big-spending team like Manchester City, which has incurred large debts after spending up to $1.5B on winning the English Premier League (EPL) for the first time this season, from competing in the Champions League.

"I'm happy for them," said Platini, as he congratulated City on their title success. "But they will know what we will do. And if they are in the Financial Fair Play they will play our competition but we will look at them like we will look at everyone else.

If you say OK to goal-line technology, then it is offside technology, then penalty area technology, and we stop the football
Michel Platini

"We prepare everything with the clubs -- we gave them four years to prepare something for the future," added Platini. "We will never go back."

Technology opposed

The former Nancy and Juventus midfielder and French captain, who led France when they won the European Championships in 1984, remains equally resolute in his opposition to FIFA's likely introduction of goal-line technology in the summer.

The EPL wants to introduce goal-line technology as early as next season if football's rule-makers -- The International Football Association Board (IFAB) -- sanction its use in July.

"I'm against the technology," said Platini. "If you say OK to goal-line technology, then it is offside technology, then penalty area technology, and we stop the football. I want human people -- it's easy. I understand the fans because they want justice but with an additional referee we have the same justice."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has indicated he is in favor of goal-line technology and would like to see it in place for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but Platini has not given up all hope that the Swiss may still change his mind.

"I am football, he is political." said Platini. "He changes his mind. He said last year in the IFAB never technology, never. This year he changed, he's says let's go technology. I hope next year he will say no technology."

I didn't see Barcelona be better than Chelsea and I didn't see Real Madrid be better than Bayern in these games
Michel Platini

Looking ahead to Saturday's showpiece event between Chelsea and Bayern, Platini insisted that that best two teams had reached the final, despite the widely held view that their respective semifinal opponents -- Barcelona and Real Madrid -- are Europe's strongest teams.

"Could be, but the result is there -- it's Bayern Munich against Chelsea. I didn't see Barcelona be better than Chelsea and I didn't see Real Madrid be better than Bayern in these games," said the UEFA president.

Surprising season

"Everything was surprising -- the non-qualification of some of the English teams to the second round, the fact that Chelsea and Bayern were not favorites for the semifinals and they beat Barcelona and Real Madrid. It has been incredible year for the legend of the cup."

Next season will be the 20th anniversary of the Champions League, which was formerly known as the European Cup.

Asked to single out his favorite finals, Platini picked Liverpool's win over AC Milan 2005 and Barcelona's triumph in 2011.

"Istanbul, was an incredible game for Liverpool against Milan and last year's final between Barcelona and Manchester United was a great, great game with a great atmosphere at the stadium."

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