Michael van Praag

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UEFA hopeful Van Praag complains nations turned back on him

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) UEFA presidential candidate Michael van Praag says that countries have reneged on promises to back him in Wednesday’s election to succeed Michel Platini.

The Dutch federation head has picked up four public endorsements, while rival Aleksander Ceferin says he is supported by more than 30 members from the 55-strong UEFA.

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Van Praag says “some people told me from the beginning that they would vote for me and then all of a sudden they turned their back to me. If you call that old school, then I can only say that happened.”

England, Belgium, Iceland and the Netherlands will vote for Van Praag.

If elected, the UEFA vice president “would reopen the negotiations” on the Champions League after complaints that England, Germany, Italy and Spain have been guaranteed four group-stage places.

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

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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.

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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.

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Hours after Van Praag drops out of FIFA presidential race, Figo does the same

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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.

Head of Dutch FA, Michael van Praag, will challenge Blatter for FIFA presidency

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Michael van Praag is taking on Sepp Blatter as the head of the Dutch football federation is in the running to become president of FIFA.

Van Praag, 67, has declared his intentions to take on the much-maligned FIFA president Blatter after numerous allegations of corrupt behavior has riddled world soccer’s governing body for decades under the watch of its Swiss leader.

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In a statement released on the Dutch FA website, van Praag revealed that he has chosen to run against Blatter because no other credible candidates had emerged and that “it is about time that the organization is normalized and that its full focus is back on football.”

Van Praag, who will speak on Wednesday about his candidacy in more details, also said the following.

“It is well known that I am very worried about FIFA,” van Praag said. “It is high time that the organisation comes back into the real world. I had hoped that a credible opponent would emerge, but that’s simply not happened. In that case you cannot just talk but you must also act decisively and take responsibility so there therefore I am announcing my candidacy.”

Plenty of people are now lining up to try and take on Blatter but potential candidates have until Thursday to be nominated by five of FIFA’s 209 member federations in order to challenge for the presidency.

[ RELATED: Prince Ali to challenge Blatter ]

The head of Dutch soccer claims he already has the required backing of five federations, so he can therefore stand in the May 29 vote against Blatter.

Others who are aiming to run against Blatter, such as David Ginola, Prince Ali of Jordan, long-time FIFA executive committee member Jerome Champagne and “Super Agent” Mino Raiola may not be as credible as van Praag to take charge of world soccer’s governing body.

Will the Dutchman finally oust Blatter and lead FIFA into a brave new world?