michel platini.jpg
Photograph: EPA/Radek Pietruszka

UEFA president Michel Platini has withdrawn his candidacy for the FIFA presidency, French sports daily L'Equipe reported Thursday.

"I withdraw my candidacy. I don't have the time or the means to go to voters, meet people, to fight with others," he was quoted as saying, noting that he would dedicate his time to his defence.

On December 21, Platini and FIFA president Joseph Blatter were banned for eight years from all football-related activity by FIFA's ethics committee for ethics breaches relating to a 2011 payment to Platini of 2 million Swiss francs (about 2 million dollars).

The former France captain had been seen as the favourite to succeed Blatter.

The ban effectively ended Blatter's career as football's top administrator and Platini's hopes of succeeding him as FIFA president.

Both said they would appeal the rulings, and Platini insisted that he would continue in his bid to head FIFA.

FIFA's new president will be elected at an extraordinary congress on February 26 in Zurich.

Platini said last month that he would take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and file a civil lawsuit to seek compensation.

He described the process against him as "a true mockery."

Blatter and Platini were ruled to have breached FIFA rules relating to offering and accepting gifts, conflicts of interest, loyalty and general rules of conduct.

Both were provisionally suspended for 90 days on October 8 in connection with the payment Platini received in 2011, with the UEFA president saying it was for FIFA work done between 1998 and 2002.

Both have said the 2011 payment was part of an agreement made for work carried out when Platini was employed as an adviser to Blatter. They conceded that no written contract existed for the payment, with Blatter saying there was a "gentlemen's agreement."

Platini received the money nine years later at a time when Blatter was seeking support for a fourth term as president and facing a major challenge from Qatar's Mohamed Bin Hammam.

Also Thursday, Paraguayan authorities said they had searched the Asuncion offices of the South American football confederation CONMEBOL at the request of US authorities, seeking documents related to alleged money laundering and other corrupt practices.

Former CONMEBAL head Juan Angel Napout was arrested last month in Switzerland and extradited to the United States. Napout's predecessors Eugenio Figueiredo and Nicolas Leoz are under investigation, too, over alleged corruption in the selling of marketing rights.

Five candidates are now in the running for FIFA president: Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation; Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician, businessman and former political prisoner; Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, who was a FIFA presidential candidate earlier this year; Gianni Infantino, UEFA general secretary and member of FIFA's reform committee; and Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA assistant general secretary.

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