Wed, Jun 24, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Maradona faces rocky road to FIFA presidency


Former Argentina soccer player and coach Diego Maradona speaks on the second day of the Soccerex Asian Forum conference in Southern Shuneh, Jordan, on May 4.

Photo: AP

If Diego Maradona is serious about running for the FIFA presidency, he still has a lot of work to do just to get on the ballot.

The former Argentina soccer star with a history of on and off-the-field controversy would need to pass an integrity check and persuade five of FIFA’s member associations to nominate him.

Maradona’s desire to run for FIFA’s top job was reported by Victor Hugo Morales, a journalist close to the retired great.

Morales, who hosts a show on the regional network Telesur, said on Twitter that Maradona told him he plans to be candidate.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter this month announced that he would be stepping down amid a US probe into US$150 million in bribes allegedly paid to top soccer officials.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro immediately called for Maradona to replace him.

Maradona has been a high-profile supporter of Venezuela’s socialist government and a sharp critic of corruption in soccer.

Maradona’s long list of provocative incidents would seem to go against the image that soccer’s world governing body would want to embrace as it digs out from its worst scandal.

Maradona has run into tax problems in Italy, where he has debts totaling tens of millions of US dollars accruing from his 1984 to 1991 stint playing with SSC Napoli.

He was accused of cheating when he punched in the “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup.

In 1994, Maradona fired an air gun at reporters and was given a two-year suspended sentence.

Last year, he slapped a journalist in the face and called him an “idiot” outside a theater in Buenos Aires.

Maradona was constantly criticized when he coached Argentina’s national team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and was fired after they were beaten 4-0 by Germany.

His tumultuous personal life has often been a target for local media in Argentina.

In the often mysterious world of FIFA politics, it is far from clear which five of the 209 member federations would choose to nominate Maradona and why they would do it.

Cuba is perhaps one nation which could back him, having welcomed Maradona as a regular visitor to his friend Fidel Castro.

Venezuela is another ally because of Maduro’s vocal support.

It is difficult to see Maradona’s native Argentina nominating him, given the dire state of relations that existed between him and long-time national soccer federation president Julio Grondona, who died in July last year.

Grondona’s allies and entourage still have influence and a request to support Maradona’s nomination would likely be seen as an insult to the former strongman of Argentine soccer.

Maradona also appeared to wear out his welcome in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the only nation where he coached since coaching Argentina at the 2010 World Cup.

Many soccer officials who still support Blatter are unlikely to have forgotten Maradona’s language toward the FIFA president during his recent re-election campaign.

“I think we have a good chance to kick Blatter in the rear end — without a doubt,” Maradona said in April.

Even if Maradona secured the required backers, his problems to get on the ballot paper would only just be starting after the nomination deadline passed.

FIFA election rules require mandatory integrity checks for presidential hopefuls within 10 days before they are officially accepted as candidates.

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