- Associated Press - Thursday, August 28, 2014

MONACO (AP) - Michel Platini won’t fight Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency, though he still hopes somebody will.

The UEFA president decided Thursday not to challenge Blatter in an election next May, insisting he was not dodging a battle with his former mentor.

Platini denied FIFA critics a potentially bitter contest, but then urged more conflict within the Blatter-led executive committee.

His decision, which was expected, leaves the 78-year-old Blatter clear to win a fifth presidential term - possibly unopposed for a third straight time.

Platini will focus instead on being re-elected to lead European football in March and a probable FIFA candidacy in 2019.

“Now is not my time, not yet,” the 59-year-old Platini said at a news conference after meeting leaders of Europe’s 54 football federations. “I hope that somebody will oppose Mr. Blatter and nobody will oppose me for UEFA.”

Platini, a FIFA vice president, then challenged his colleagues to be “braver” standing up to Blatter’s power.

“To bring ideas and want to change things and not just be sheep who always say yes,” Platini said through a translator.

The former France great seemed likely to avoid a FIFA contest after a successful World Cup strengthened Blatter’s position as president, which he has held since 1998.

Blatter already has support from FIFA’s other five continental confederations. Leaders of most of the 209 member countries have shown little desire for change as successful World Cups have raised FIFA cash reserves close to $1.5 billion.

Platini dismissed one description of a contest against Blatter as “unwinnable.”

“No, my choice was not based on who was running,” said Platini, who recalled beating another longtime sitting president, Lennart Johansson, for the UEFA job in 2007. “So I can’t be accused of being afraid of Mr. Blatter.”

UEFA members were meeting for the first time since they confronted Blatter in Brazil in June over his style of leadership and alleged corruption implicating FIFA. They also reminded the veteran Swiss official of his 2011 promise to step aside after his current mandate.

That hostile encounter in Sao Paulo on the eve of the World Cup fueled speculation of a FIFA challenge by Platini or a senior UEFA nominee.

“We went for peace. I think it is the logical decision,” Iceland football association president Geir Thorsteinsson told The Associated Press on Thursday.

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