Wed, Jan 07, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Jordan’s Prince Ali to challenge Blatter for FIFA presidency

AFP and Reuters, AMMAN

FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan yesterday said he will challenge Sepp Blatter to lead world soccer’s governing body, vowing to end years of controversy surrounding the game.

If successful, he would be only the second FIFA head from outside Europe and the first ever from the Middle East.

“I am seeking the presidency of FIFA because I believe it is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport,” the 39-year-old said in a statement. “The headlines should be about football — the beautiful sport — not about FIFA.”

Prince Ali, who was elected as the association’s vice president for Asia in 2011, aims to prevent Switzerland’s Blatter from winning a fifth term in office.

Frenchman Jerome Champagne has also declared his candidacy in the May 29 election.

Ali said he had been encouraged to run after consultations with senior figures in the sport.

“This was not an easy decision. It came after careful consideration and many discussions with respected FIFA colleagues over the last few months,” he said. “The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change.”

FIFA has been steeped in controversy and allegations of corruption since Russia and Qatar won the bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively.

Ali was one of the most senior FIFA officials to call for the full publication of a report into the winning bids, but the group’s executive voted to release only an “appropriate,” edited version of top US lawyer Michael Garcia’s report into the alleged corruption.

FIFA and Blatter have sought, without success, to silence critics of the Qatari and Russian bids.

Ali is also head of Jordan’s Football Association and founder of the West Asian Football Federation. In 2011, he became the youngest member of FIFA’s Executive Committee at the age of 35, after rallying Arab support behind him.

Ali will need five of FIFA’s 209 member countries to nominate him as a candidate before a Jan. 29 deadline and is believed to have plenty of support, including that of Michel Platini, president of European soccer’s governing body UEFA.

He will also lobby for support from the Asian Football Confederation, whose head is Bahrain’s Sheik Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, as well as from the US and from Caribbean nations.

“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,’” Ali said.

In response to Ali’s announcement, Champagne, who began his campaign a year ago, said that the election is not about personal ambition, but concrete proposals for the future of the game.

Champagne seems to welcome the growing challenge to Blatter.

The poll is “about platforms, concrete proposals and visions,” he said. “Mine are known, clear and public. So let’s wait for the release of the other alleged candidates programs and lets start the democratic and fair debate that I have been calling upon since the first day of my campaign — the debate we all, and football, needs.”

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