Figo joins race to unseat Blatter
The fight to remove Sepp Blatter from the most powerful job in world soccer intensified in Europe yesterday.
In a surprise entry to the FIFA presidential contest, Portuguese great Luis Figo - the 2001 world player of the year - claimed the required support of five national federations by the entry deadline today.
"I look at the reputation of FIFA right now and I don't like it. Football deserves better," the former Barcelona and Real Madrid playmaker said in a statement without giving detailed campaign plans.
Meanwhile, Dutch federation president Michael van Praag launched his campaign in Amsterdam, promising to modernise FIFA, expand the World Cup with more places for non-European countries and give Blatter an advisory role.
FIFA "is doing badly and has lost all credibility," said Van Praag, who famously told Blatter last year in Brazil that people no longer took him seriously. "FIFA is constantly under suspicion, of conflicts of interest, of nepotism, of corruption."
Van Praag said he had no animosity towards Blatter and spoke with him to offer a position running a foundation helping less privileged children.
"In fact, I like him a lot as a person," the 67-year-old Dutch official said. "However, someone who has led an organisation for so many years and who has become the personification of its poor image, can no longer be the face of a modernisation operation or of a 'new FIFA'."
Blatter's opponents also include FIFA Vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
Two more possible candidates from France, former FIFA official and longtime Blatter ally Jerome Champagne and former player David Ginola, seek to file nominations by this evening's deadline.
Still, Blatter is strongly favoured to win a May 29 vote by the 209 FIFA member federations, despite bribery and financial scandals which implicated several of his executive committee colleagues.
Soccer leaders worldwide have shown little desire for change during Blatter's 17-year reign overseeing spectacular commercial success for the World Cup. FIFA has cash reserves of $1.5 billion and distributes increasing bonuses to members.
Figo has little experience of sports administration, but said a mood for change exists.