And then there was one.
As expected all along, both Michael van Praag and Luis Figo have dropped out in order to back one single candidate against Sepp Blatter. However, Figo’s concession – coming just hours after van Praag announced he would step out of the race – has stirred the pot substantially more.
To announce his removal from the race, the former Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Inter forward submitted a statement to the Associated Press which condemns FIFA for holding what he believes is “not a normal electoral act” and makes numerous inferences to underdealings and corruption.
Here is the most damning section:
“I traveled and met extraordinary people who, though they recognized the value of much that had been done, also concurred with the need for change, one that cleans up FIFA’s reputation as an obscure organization that is so often viewed as a place of corruption. But over the past few months I have not only witnessed that desire (for change), I have witnessed consecutive incidents, all over the world, that should shame anyone who desires soccer to be free, clean and democratic. I have seen with my own eyes federation presidents who, after one day comparing FIFA leaders to the devil, then go on stage and compare those same people with Jesus Christ. Nobody told me about this. I saw it with my own eyes. The candidates were prevented from addressing federations at congresses while one of the candidates always gave speeches on his own from the rostrum. There has not been a single public debate about each candidate’s proposals. Does anyone think it’s normal that an election for one of the most relevant organizations on the planet can go ahead without a public debate? Does anyone think it’s normal that one of the candidates doesn’t even bother to present an election manifesto that can be voted on May 29? Shouldn’t it be mandatory to present such a manifesto so that federation presidents know what they’re voting for? That would be normal, but this electoral process is anything but an election. This [election] process is a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man – something I refuse to go along with.”
It’s no surprise that Figo would attack Blatter, as this was the plan all along: to have two of Europe’s candidates drop out to back one man. Essentially, the strategy was to have three people fight the recruitment and vote-garnering battle one person alone cannot do.
However, what is surprising is the lengths Figo has gone to implicate Blatter. He’s not only swept the incumbent and opponent into his scathing attack, but also essentially implicated numerous unnamed federations as supporting this corrupt organization.
The 42-year-old Portuguese candidate also didn’t rule himself out of future elections, saying, “I will be available for it whenever it is proven to me that we are not living under a dictatorship.”
So, the only man left to challenge Sepp Blatter on the May 29 election is now Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. May the best man win. Please.