Lahm vs Platini, and the question of politics

Philipp Lahm is certainly no stranger to controversy. Advising gay footballers to stay in the closet, and attacking some of his former coaches in his auto biography caused a stir at the time, turning Lahm into one of the most outspoken and criticized footballers in Germany. Lahm was also the first German footballer who criticized the Ukrainian regime for their treatment of Yulia Tymoshenko in an interview with the German magazine Spiegel:

I’m aware that Ukraine is a young state that doesn’t meet our standards in terms of freedom and human rights.

Football’s upper echelons and politicians are best equipped to talk about these matters according to Lahm, however. The Bayern München defender added that it would be interesting to hear what Michel Platini, the president of Uefa, had to say about the matter, asking the Uefa president to take a position regarding the matter.

Platini strikes back

The former French international wasn’t too pleased about Lahm’s statements, asking him to condemn the current political situation in Ukraine. Platini told Spiegel that he’s ”…only concerned about the footballing side of the matter.” Lahm’s statement had clearly annoyed Platini, who added:

He can say what he wants. I don’t care about that. But, Herr Lahm isn’t my boss. He can’t order me to do anything. He is the captain of the German national team, not the Uefa.

Furthermore, the Frenchman asked in return:

Should we just take away the tournament after we’ve handed it to them, just because of politics?

When football meets politics

The upcoming Euros have certainly gained a political dimension after Tymoshenko’s hunger strike in an Ukrainian prison. German chancellor Angela Merkel and German president Joachim Gauck have both decided to stay away from the tournament, sending a clear signal to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

European heads of states feel a certain unease about the upcoming Euros, not knowing for sure how they should handle them. The last time a similar situation occurred was back in 1978, when Argentine hosted the World Cup. The Latin American country was back then ruled by a brutal military junta. The Netherlands discussed if they should send their team at all before the start of the World Cup, and Berti Vogts shocked all of Germany when he told the press that he didn’t understand what all the fuzz was about, because he hadn’t seen a political prisoner after all.

Politics and football meet often at certain cross sections, but acting on politicians wishes, or giving into political pressure isn’t an option for the Uefa in the future according to Platini:

The members of the executive committee have to vote to the best of their knowledge and conscious.

Platini added that he’d be “…a politician if I wanted to get into politics, but I do football.”

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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