• Michael van Praag enters race for presidency of soccer body
  • Organization looking for leader after Michel Platini banned

The president of the Netherlands soccer federation became the first candidate in the race to run European soccer’s governing body after UEFA announced Sept. 14 elections to replace banned ex-president Michel Platini.

Michael van Praag told UEFA executive board, which is meeting Tuesday in Basel, Switzerland, that he planned to run, the group’s acting general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said at a press conference. The 67-year-old Dutchman last year had an unsuccessful campaign for the presidency of FIFA, the sport’s global body.

UEFA has lost its two key leaders since the arrests of senior soccer officials rocked the sport last year. Platini resigned after failing to overturn a ban this month. His top administrator, Gianni Infantino, was elected president of global governing body FIFA in February, a role that Platini targeted before his ban.

UEFA’s board is split on whether to focus on one so-called “unity candidate" or back an election with multiple candidates, said Theodoridis, who declined to say whether he’d run himself. Spanish soccer head Angel Villar Llona has been acting president in Platini’s absence.

Van Praag declined to speak with reporters. He raised his global profile by emerging as a candidate to run against the now-banned FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2015. The former president of Dutch soccer team Ajax pulled out a few weeks before the vote took place.

Blatter was known for backing his preferred candidates in regional elections. Theodoridis said that Infantino, who spent more than a decade at UEFA, shouldn’t get involved.

The UEFA administration should stay out of the race and "this would go also for FIFA and the FFIA president," Theodoridis said.

UEFA is soccer’s richest federation, generating billions of dollars annually from its Champions League competition and the quadrennial European Championship. The next is set to take place next month in Platini’s native France.

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