Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1248, (28 May - 3 June 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1248, (28 May - 3 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The soccer showdown

FIFA, world football’s governing body, tomorrow elects its president for the next four years. Inas Mazhar weighs the chances of the remaining two candidates

Al-Ahram Weekly

The soccer world’s attention will move tomorrow, Friday 29 May to Zurich, home of FIFA. This time, not because of a World Cup but for another event that also takes place every four years: elections for the FIFA president.

 There have been only three FIFA presidents in the past 50 years: England’s Stanley Rous, Brazil’s Joao Havelange and the current supremo, Swiss Jospeh Blatter. Only eight people have occupied the president’s office in its 111-year history.

Blatter succeeded Havelange and has been FIFA boss for 17 years, starting in 1998. He beat Lennart Johansson of Sweden 111-80 in the first round of voting in Paris. Blatter was eventually declared winner when his rival Johansson declined to go for a second round. That election was rife with rumours of vote buying from Africa.

The 79-year-old was re-elected in 2002, 2007 and 2011. Blatter had competition in 2002 and 2007. In 2002, he beat President of the African Confederation CAF Issa Hayatou of Cameroon 139-56 in Seoul, South Korea.

Hayatou might have lost his dream then but he had won the friendship of Blatter and they have becomes allies ever since. Not only that but Hayatou is now a FIFA senior vice president and could become an interim president if the position is vacated in future for any reason.

In 2011, Blatter was unopposed but it was a very different story. Former FIFA vice president and President of the Asian Football Confederation Mohamed Bin Hammam, Blatter’s ally and close friend at the time, dared to challenge Blatter in 2011. But Bin Hammam was taken care of. The man never made it to election day and had to pull out days before because of a corruption scandal which cost him his seat in FIFA’s all-important Executive Committee. He was also slapped with a life ban from any football activities. The Qatari denied the allegations, claiming he was framed.

This year’s elections are a bit different. FIFA’s reputation regarding corruption and lack of transparency is at stake. Up until a few days ago, there were three candidates running against Blatter: HRH Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, Luis Figo of Portugal and Michael van Praag of the Netherlands. However, both Figo and Van Praag pulled out the race on 21 May and announced their backing for the Jordanian Prince Ali, as did the European Federation UEFA and its president Michel Platini.

So, only Prince Ali is battling Blatter, who is running for a fifth term. Blatter seems confident of winning over the 209-nation organisation and feels the 39-year-old prince poses no serious challenge. He has not engaged his opponent in any public debate, deciding that his achievements speak for themselves.

“I am not campaigning,” Blatter told a FIFA news conference in March.  “I am now 40 years in FIFA, and I am 17 years as president of FIFA. This is my manifesto.”

So will Prince Ali be able to stop Blatter? It’s a long shot at best, with apparently only UEFA backing him. Surprisingly, support from even Prince Ali’s home base, the Asian Football Confederation, is unclear after it was announced that Asia is backing Blatter.

And even most Arab countries, including Egypt, have not shown their full support for the Arab prince. The Arabs are members of both the Asian and African confederations.

Prince Ali has been a FIFA vice president for Asia since 2011 and has been president of the Jordan Football Association since 1999 and founder of the Asian Football Development Project. To enter the race for the presidency, he was nominated by the national federations of Jordan, Belarus, England, Georgia, Malta and the United States. A candidate needs the approval of at least five national federations to enter the elections.

In his campaign platform, Prince Ali promises the following: expanding the World Cup to 36 teams, giving extra places to Africa, Asia and CONCACAF; upgrading South American, Oceania playoff places to full qualification slots; restoring continental rotation when choosing World Cup hosts; requiring bidders to respect labour laws and human rights; limiting FIFA presidents to two four-year terms; giving FIFA member federations $1 million per year, doubling their current FIFA payments in the four-year World Cup period; increasing FIFA’s revenues by improving the reputation and brand to attract sponsors; and funding scholarships for coaches to work in less developed soccer countries. And end a “culture of intimidation”.

“We need a change of culture and a departure from FIFA’s authoritarian approach to strategy,” Prince Ali says.

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