Figo, Van Praag join Blatter pursuit
29 January 2015, 12:10
Paris - The race to dethrone FIFA president Sepp Blatter took a new twist Wednesday when Luis Figo joined the list of candidates which already includes fellow former player David Ginola.
Former Portugal and Real Madrid star Figo is now in the running along with Asian Football Confederation vice-president Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, Dutch football chief Michael van Praag, ex-FIFA executive Jerome Champagne and former French winger Ginola.
However, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the former head of the Chilean football association, had still not entered the fray as expected on Wednesday.
Blatter is bidding for a fifth term when elections take place on May 29.
Van Praag argued that under Blatter's watch, football's governing body had become ridden with suspicion, conflicts of interest and allegations of nepotism and corruption.
"FIFA has lost all credibility. FIFA has its back turned on the future," said Van Praag, who send his candidacy letter to FIFA's headquarters in Zurich on Tuesday.
His letter was accompanied by backing letters of the five national football associations of Belgium, Sweden, Scotland, Romania, the Faroe Islands -- and the Netherlands.
"I believe the time has come to follow the strength of my convictions, to take responsibility. For this reason, I have put myself forward as a candidate," said Van Praag, who also announced he planned to stand for one four-year term only.
With the deadline for nominees to bid falling on Thursday there is a still a chance of further candidates to join the likes of Figo.
"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," the 42-year-old Figo told CNN.
"If you search FIFA on the internet you see the first word that comes out: scandal -- not positive words. It's that we have to change first and try to improve the image of FIFA. Football deserves much better than this."
"I've been talking with so many important people in football -- players, managers, president of federations -- and they all think that something has to be done," added Figo, who won the Ballon d'Or in 2000 and was voted FIFA World Player of the Year in 2001.
"Last year was the World Cup, I was in Brazil and I saw the reaction of all the fans regarding the image of FIFA and I think something has to be changed.
"Change in leadership, governance, transparency and solidarity, so I think it's the moment for that."
Mayne-Nicholls, who headed a FIFA commission that warned of the dangers of holding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar had bgeen expected to throw his hat in the ring on Wednesday.
But media reports in Chile suggested that the 53-year-old had opted not to run.
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Blatter, 78, is overwhelming favourite to retain the presidency in the vote by the 209 member FIFA executive.
But he has faced intense pressure over the vote which gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and particularly the following tournament set for Qatar.
Qatar won the 2022 race despite warnings about the dangers of playing games in the Gulf's searing summer temperatures.
Moving to a winter World Cup for the first time faces major opposition from Europe's top clubs who would be forced into an eight week mid-season break.
The Chilean had told the website of CONMEBOL, the South American confederation: "Once you decide to be a candidate you have to convince 105 of 209 countries who are members of FIFA, because that is what is needed to win.
"We would have to develop a strategy in which, obviously, CONMEBOL is very important but from which we can also seek votes in the other confederations because (South American support) is not enough to win."
He added that he had called for "fresh air" in FIFA's leadership in a column written for Spanish newspaper El Pais this year.
"What has happened lately has not served the image of FIFA or, indirectly, football.
"There is a complete disconnect between what the fans think is needed and the administration of the game.
"That leads me to believe that you can both accomplish change while maintaining what works well. I do not think it is wise, in the long term, to maintain both the same individuals and structures."