contenders THURSDAY marks the final day for entrants into the race to become the next Fifa president, with the next four months before the May 29 election set to provide a vicious tussle for the top job.
While under-fire incumbent Sepp Blatter retains plenty of support, there has been no shortage of opponents stepping forward to make their own case for election. Six men will be hoping to secure five letters of support before the deadline, with Fifa to confirm in February which of them have met the minimum requirement for consideration.
But who are the half-dozen to have put their hats into the ring? What are they offering football’s fans and stakeholders between now and 2019? Goal runs through the list of candidates and how they promise to improve Fifa’s failing image.
Blatter has come in for a great deal of criticism during his 17 years at the head of the world game, with various corruption scandals resulting in his position being repeatedly attacked in recent times. The president had promised that he would not run for a fifth term when standing for re-election in 2011, but now insists he still has much to offer as Fifa looks to complete a period of reform.
“It is impossible to make everybody happy. If I had only positive press, that would not be good,” he said recently. “I like criticism, but only as long as it is fair criticism.
“I have not finished my mission because it’s a mission to be in football. We started in 2011 the reform process, and that process is not over.”
The first man to announce his candidacy back in January 2014, Jerome Champagne has a lengthy resume encompassing football and politics, and – if elected – promises to drag the game into the 21st century. His campaign is built around the fight to bring more democracy into football’s processes, but he has been left scrambling for last-minute support after many FA heads who had promised to recommend him failed to do so.
“I dream about a better balanced football,” Champagne told Goal in an exclusive interview. “What I would hope is that all these programmes and all these changes I propose would give a better balance.
“I am not saying it is going to be easy, but I think it is going to be worthwhile because football is about uncertainty. It is about giving the chance to the Davids against the Goliaths.”
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein was immediately installed as second-favourite behind Blatter when announcing his decision to run for the top job in January 2015. His speedy ascent to the top of the Jordanian FA has been mirrored in both Fifa and the AFC, where he has long been one of the game’s most powerful men. But the man whose candidacy was welcomed has provided little in terms of his vision for the sport to this point, besides promising a more united Fifa.
“The headlines should be about football, the beautiful sport, not about Fifa,” said Ali on announcing his candidacy.
“Fifa exists to serve a sport which unites billions of people from all over the world, people of differing and divergent political, religious and social affiliations, who come together in their enjoyment of ‘the world’s game’.”
David Ginola’s most notable political step in football until stepping into the Fifa presidency race had been to back England’s unsuccessful 2018 World Cup bid. But now, the Frenchman has teamed up with bookmakers Paddy Power to invite fans to raise the +3 million needed to see the campaign through. He has, however, insisted that his bid for the top job is not a publicity stunt.
“I’m standing because I love football,” said Ginola in a promotional video on his official website. “Whether you are on the pitch or on the terraces, we all know that the Fifa system isn’t working. The game needs to change.”
While Uefa president Michel Platini eventually decided not to run for the Fifa job, another of the European game’s big-hitters could not sit on the sidelines. Michael van Praag has been an outspoken opponent of Blatter in recent times, leading a revolt against the chief at Uefa Congress in 2014. He is likely to be heavily backed on his own continent, but will need to sway opinion elsewhere.
“I was hoping that a serious candidate would stand up to beat Blatter, but nobody stood up,” explained Van Praag. “So now I am taking that responsibility, also because of the fact that we in the Netherlands are one of the co-founders of Fifa.
“I was considering this move for a long time. I spoke with a lot of people before I made my choice. I hope that my people from the Netherlands will help me to win the vote.”
The latest man to enter the race, Luis Figo was another surprise candidate for the Fifa presidency. The former Portugal international explained that his decision to run came after conversations with several important figures in the game who shared similar concerns about how football’s image has been tarnished in recent years.
“I care about football, so what I’m seeing regarding the image of Fifa, not only now but in the past years, I don’t like it,” he told CNN. “If you search Fifa on the internet you see the first word that comes out: scandal, not positive words. That’s what we have to change first and try to improve the image of Fifa. Football deserves much better than this.
“After the Garcia report was not published I think that was the moment of change and the moment I thought that something had to be done.”