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Rediff.com  » Sports » These men will face off against FIFA president Blatter

These men will face off against FIFA president Blatter

January 29, 2015 09:20 IST

FIFA officials count ballots at the end of FIFA's presidential election duirng   the 61st FIFA congress at the Hallenstadion in Zurich June 1, 2011

FIFA officials count ballots at the end of FIFA's presidential election duirng the 61st FIFA congress at the Hallenstadion in Zurich June 1, 2011. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

What do, Jerome Champagne (former FIFA deputy secretary general), Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, Michael van Praag (president of the Dutch FA), former Portugal winger Luis Figo and former France international David Ginola have in common?

Well, they are the challengers to FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s crown.

If anyone had doubts that football believes the time is right for change at FIFA, the roll call of people ready to unseat incumbent president Sepp Blatter should dispel them.

With the deadline to submit candidatures for the FIFA presidential election closing at 2300 GMT on Thursday, four men are optimistic of getting their names on the ballot paper for the vote in Zurich on May 29.

Blatter, the 78-year-old Swiss who has been president since 1998, will be bidding for a fifth term and, despite allegations of corruption which have dogged FIFA for years, he remains the overwhelming favourite to be re-elected.

But he is facing something he has not faced before because rather than having no opposition or just one opponent, he has challenges from across the world of football.

Jerome Champagne

Jerome Champagne

Jerome Champagne speaks during a news conference. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

The first to declare his intentions a year ago was Frenchman Jerome Champagne, who was FIFA's former deputy secretary general before leaving the organisation in 2010.

Champagne did not mention Blatter by name in his statement but the 56-year-old said it was important to have a debate over the future of the game.

FIFA's Deputy Secretary General between 2002 and 2005, Champagne worked on special projects between 2005 and 2007 and was Director of International Relations from 2007 until he left FIFA in 2010 after political infighting cost him his position.

A former diplomat, since 2010 Champagne has worked as an independent international football consultant focusing on resolving issues in Kosovo, Palestine and Israel and Cyprus.

Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein with FIFA Presdient, Joseph Blatter

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein with FIFA Presdient, Joseph Blatter. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan is currently on FIFA's executive committee as Asian vice-president and, at 39, would become the second youngest president in FIFA's 111-year history.

The current FIFA vice-president and head of the Jordanian and West Asian Football Federations said he had been encouraged to stand in the May elections in Zurich against incumbent Sepp Blatter and challenger Jerome Champagne.

"I am seeking the presidency of FIFA because I believe it is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport," Prince Ali said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This was not an easy decision. It came after careful consideration and many discussions with respected FIFA colleagues over the last few months.

"The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change. The world game deserves a world-class governing body — an International Federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance."

Michael van Praag

Michael van Praag

Michael van Praag, KNVB President takes a photo of the Trophy on his mobile phone during the UEFA Europa League trophy handover ceremony. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Michael van Praag, the 67-year-old president of the Dutch FA (KNVB), threw his hat into the ring saying it was time for Blatter to go.

The key question, however, is whether any of the ‘serious’ candidates stand a chance of unseating Blatter.

"Everyone expects the small team to lose but sometimes they win," Van Praag said.

Luis Figo

Luis Figo

Luis Figo draws Manchester United FC during the UEFA Champions League 2013/14 season quarter-finals draw at the UEFA headquarters. Photograph: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images for UEFA

Former Portugal winger Luis Figo is also in the running.

"I care about football, so what I'm seeing regarding the image of FIFA – not only now but in the past years – I don’t like it," Figo as quoted as saying in CNN.

"I've been talking with so many important people in football – players, managers, president of federations – and they all think that something has to be done. Last year was the World Cup, I was in Brazil and I saw the reaction of all the fans regarding the image of FIFA and I think something has to be changed.

"Change in leadership, governance, transparency and solidarity, so I think it's the moment for that."

The Portuguese legend played at clubs including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan during his prolific career and won the Ballon d'Or in 2000 as well as the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2001.

David Ginola

Former international football player David Ginola

Former international football player David Ginola. Photograph: Jessica Hromas/Getty Images

Former France winger David Ginola also announced that he is entering the race to become president of world soccer's governing body FIFA.

David GinolaBut the ex-Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur player has no chance of winning the election and is unlikely to get the required number of nominations to officially enter the race.

 “It is time that football was refreshed," he  said. "We have to be brave and deal with what is going on in this game we love.

"I’m not interested in dwelling on the sins of the past, this is about taking football forward and putting supporters at the centre of the game.

"Football belongs to the people and they deserve to have a voice. We want transparency so that everyone knows where every penny goes.

"People need to be able to trust the decisions being made by those in charge."

Ginola, 48 is backed by a bookmaking firm and the Change FIFA organisation.

Ginola played 17 times for his country in the 1990s and, after spending the first 10 years of his career in France, most notably with Paris St Germain, he moved to England in 1995 where he played for Newcastle, Spurs, Aston Villa and Everton.

Famed for his flair on the pitch as well as his flowing hair and Gallic good looks, Ginola was a fans' favourite at Newcastle and Tottenham where he won the League Cup in 1999.

Ginola, who was England's Footballer of the Year in 1999, has been active in football since retiring as a player in 2002, being involved with clubs in Asia and France.

He has also has worked as an actor and model.

It would take the soccer world to shift on its axis for that to happen in this election, but with so many candidates tilting the balance away from Blatter that possibility remains.

As long as they can officially enter the race, Prince Ali, Van Praag, Champagne and Figo will have four months to go around the world trying to persuade the heads of FIFA's 209 member associations that the time has come for change.

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