Luis Figo

So… Who will be FIFA’s first new president in nearly two decades?


Sepp Blatter says he’s leaving his post as FIFA president, and soccer’s governing body says the soonest it could hold a proper election is December.

So there’s the why and then (maybe) when for FIFA’s regime change.

As for the who, that’s another story.

[ MORE: All the FIFA news you need ]

A pair of candidates have already announced their intentions to run for FIFA’s highest office. One is Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, Blatter’s rival in Friday’s election, and the other is Luis Figo, who dropped out of the election citing a rigged process.

Who else? Well, we’ll give you the names already making the rounds and venture some guesses as well.

Michel Platini — UEFA’s president is one of the most powerful men in football and would certainly carry a good deal of weight with voters should he decide to toss his hat in the ring. The 59-year-old Frenchman has been a vocal opponent of Blatter and proponent of reform.

Sunil Gulati — The Indian-born and American-raised Gulati raised eyebrows with his confident backing of Prince Ali, and carries connections to two gigantic nations. His work in guiding U.S. Soccer will resonate abroad, but could he top a European candidate?

Figo —  Yes, he’s green, but the former superstar has not been afraid to rock the boat. His speech after pulling out of the election was both biting and brilliant.

source: Getty Images

Michael van Praag (left) — The head of Dutch football also pulled out of last week’s election. Knowing that Blatter is out, will van Praag still have the appetite for the job?

Issa Hayatou — You could see Blatter and his contingency get behind the Cameroonian, who is in his third decade as boss of the Confederation of African Football. He’d fit the underling model, despite running against Blatter in 2002, and wouldn’t necessarily inspire the populace, but Blatter won, too, and would certainly like to wink at his detractors by installing a clone of sorts.

Jerome Champagne — Pulled out of the election well before the others after failing to land the minimum backing of five national football federations, saying he felt he was conspired against for being too independent.

Ted Howard — CONCACAF’s general secretary, this American is viewed as a more likely candidate than Gulati despite being better known in the business world than soccer circles.

source: Getty Images
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Hours after Van Praag drops out of FIFA presidential race, Figo does the same


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.

[ MORE: Blatter’s re-eleciton looks more and more certain ]

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.

Luis Figo details FIFA manifesto, wants bigger World Cup, more money spent

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On Thursday at Wembley Stadium in London, Portuguese legend Luis Figo revealed his manifesto as he aims to become the new president of FIFA when the vote is held in May.

[ RELATED: Q&A with NYCFC’s Jason Kreis ]

Figo, 42, revealed plenty of wide-ranging proposals with perhaps the most radical being an expanded World Cup which could see up to 48 teams compete in the competition.

The former Real Madrid and Barcelona winger — who is challenging current FIFA president Sepp Blatter as he seeks to gain a fifth-straight four-year term as the leading man at world soccer’s governing body — proposed increasing the current 32-team format of the World Cup to 40 teams. Plus another radical idea was to organize two separate World Cup tournaments of 24 teams on two different continents, followed by a knockout competition in a different country to decide the winner.

Other candidates trying to usurp Blatter include current FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein and Dutch football association chairman Michael van Praag. Interestingly, Figo revealed that he is personally funding his entire campaign and has no other backers apart from the Portuguese FA helping with logistics.

Figo has the highest profile of the four candidates but can he win over the 209 federations across the world to vote for him in the elections in Zurich on May 29? Blatter already has the South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania confederations backing his bid. However the likes of Jose Mourinho and David Beckham are backing Figo to take charge, as the former World Player of the Year in 2001 has officially got his presidential campaign up and running.

He also touched on the following subjects with the assembled media:

  • Figo wants Mourinho and Beckham to get involved
  • Has proposed a return to the old offside rule, irrespective of being involved in the play
  • On Qatar World Cup: “If there are no irregularities proven I don’t think Qatar should be prejudiced”
  • Setting up a “football council” where ex-players, coaches would help FIFA’s ExCo make decisions
  • Wants to have trials for “sin bins” where players are removed temporarily after dissent to referees
  • Figo wants to spread FIFA’s $2.5 billion revenue over four years to associations to fund grassroots
  • Proposes redistribution of $1 billion of FIFA’s $1.5 billion cash reserves to 209 federations

Luis Figo the latest to challenge Sepp Blatter for FIFA presidency


Former World Player of the Year Luis Figo has joined the growing list of candidates hoping to become FIFA president.

[ RELATED: Ginola to challenge Blatter ]

The former Real Madrid and Barcelona legend, 42, claims he has the backing of five soccer federations to be an official candidate to oust Blatter.

Figo is the highest profile name to come out and join the race for FIFA president as other potential candidates for the May 29 vote include FIFA vice-president Prince Ali of Jordan, the head of the Dutch FA Michael van Praag, former French international David Ginola and long-time FIFA executive committee member Jerome Champagne among others.

“I look at the reputation of FIFA right now and I don’t like it. Football deserves better,” Figo said. “Football has given me so much during my life, and I want to give something back to the game. I have seen the image of FIFA deteriorate and as I speak to many people in football – to players, managers and association presidents – so many of those people have told me that something has to be done.”

So, how credible is Figo’s bid to become FIFA president? He acted as UEFA’s ambassador for Lisbon last year as the UEFA Champions League final was played in his home country of Portugal.

However the former Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year has links to a Asian betting firm Dafabet in 2014 and is paid for promotional work which might not sit well with FIFA, as electoral committee member Dominico Scala has said all candidates must pass an anti-corruption test.

Anybody wishing to challenge Blatter needs to provide proof by 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 29 that at least five of FIFA’s 209 member federations are willing to back them.

Portugal’s reaction to Group G draw: Cautious optimism remains despite Germany draw

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As the United States prepares to take on Germany, Portugal, and Ghana in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, we take a look around the globe at others’ reactions to what transpired today in Brazil.

The Portugese are an intriguing selection into the USMNT group.  Their biggest weapon is obviously Ballon d’Or frontrunner Cristiano Ronaldo, but it’s not all they’ve got.

As a country that no doubt underachieved in European qualifying, squeaking past Sweden in the knockout stage, they’re a bit of an unknown come next summer.

Looking across the country’s reactions to the Group G draw, one thing is clear – they know what they got in opening round opponents Germany, and they’re not exactly excited about it.

Former FIFA Player of the Year winner and Portugese international Luis Figo was wary of Germany’s stature but remained cautiously optimistic.

“The strongest teams in the world are in this competition and it is always difficult to choose opponents,” Figo told the Portugese media. “We already knew we would probably end up with a theoretically stronger team, and we got Germany, but it is good to start against them. Everybody knows the quality of the German team, but have been happy in recent clashes and hopefully we can have another positive result.”

Figo did not consider Portugal’s loss to the United States in the 2002 World Cup to be a sign of things to come for his country against the US. “The moment is different and there are all conditions to be get a good result (against the United States),” he maintained.

Portugese manager Paulo Bento, however, kept his cards close to his chest and played confidence, telling BBC1 that, “We have the same ambition as we would in any group – to make it to the knockout round.”

He recalled a slim 1-0 loss to Germany in the most recent European Championships, using that as a positive to show Portugal can compete with the Germans.

Bento also called both the United States and Ghana “well organized teams” that the country should not take lightly.

Speaking before the draw, Cristiano Ronaldo told Spanish paper Brand he hoped they did not pull Germany. “Favorites win the World Cup are Spain, Brazil and Germany. Therefore would be best to avoid them at an early stage.”