President Serzh Sarkisian gave Platini a Medal of Honor as they inaugurated a state-of-the-art “football academy” in the Armenian capital.
The academy has five pitches and other facilities which could be used for simultaneously training up to a thousand young footballers. UEFA has provided about two-thirds of $12 million which Armenian officials say has been spent on its construction.
“We are awarding you for your very good passes to us, and I am confident that you will carry on with that passing,” Sarkisian told Platini, using football terminology. A separate statement by the Armenian presidential press office said the UEFA chief was honored for “greatly contributing to the development of child and adolescence football” in the country.
Work on the Yerevan football academy began in 2007 shortly after Platini unseated UEFA’s previous longtime president, Lennart Johansson, in a tightly contested election. The Armenian Football Federation (AFF), a member of UEFA, voted for his candidacy.
The federation chairman, Ruben Hayrapetian, voiced support for Platini’s bid for the UEFA presidency during the Frenchman’s previous visit to Armenia in August 2006. Hayrapetian cited at the time his “businesslike and friendly” rapport with the former football star 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 1980s.
Platini on Wednesday declined to deny reports that he has now set his sights on the post of president of FIFA, football’s worldwide governing body. FIFA’s incumbent Swiss president, Sepp Blatter, will be seeking a fourth four-year term in an election due next year.
Hayrapetian, who is also a wealthy businessman close to President Sarkisian, indicated that Platini can count on AFF backing should he decide to run for the FIFA presidency. “Ruben Hayrapetian always stands by his friends,” he told journalists.