Luis Figo & Michael Van Praag Drop Out Of FIFA Presidental Race

22 May

fifa-logoThe absolute fuckery around the FIFA “elections” continues. Two of the three challengers to Sepp Blatter’s stranglehold, whoops, I mean presidency dropped out yesterday leaving only Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein to battle the venal out of touch old coot. They may have left the race, but they had plenty to say about it.

Michael Van PraagMichael Van Praag, current chairman of the Royal Dutch Football Association was the first to leave. He issued the following statement:

After thorough deliberation and reflection with different involved parties and stakeholders, Michael van Praag decided to withdraw his candidacy to become the next FIFA president and to join forces with presidential candidate Prince Ali bin al-Hussein. An explanation for this decision will be given at a joint (international) press meeting, scheduled to take place tonight in Amsterdam.

He issued the following statement on his website:

FROM MICHAELVANPRAAG.COM

FIFA presidential candidate Michael van Praag joins Prince Ali Al Hussein

Football friends,

The last few months have been an absolutely exhilarating experience for me. I am profoundly grateful for being granted the opportunity to speak to so many heads of football associations about our wonderful sport. To visit so many congresses of football federations. So many different countries, with so many different needs. But one thing stood out, one thing was agreed upon in every corner of the world: FIFA needs to change.

My motivation to run for the presidency was never because I wanted to change functions, I am perfectly happy where I am right now. But I felt – and I still feel – that FIFA needs to do better. And that it is impossible that FIFA moves forward with its current leadership. This is why I decided to challenge mister Blatter. We need change in governance, in leadership, and in the culture of FIFA. We need to embrace criticism as an encouragement to be better. We need to be transparent and answer to the highest ethical standards. We need to get back to normal, to serve the sport and the member states instead of ourselves.

You know the proposals that I have made to accomplish these things, as I am sure that you have studied the programs of my fellow challengers.

As several media already reported – hats off to those journalists – the three of us have sat down to discuss the remainder of the campaign. This campaign was always about the need to bring football forward and improve FIFA. And it still is. This is why the three of us sat down to discuss our chances. I have the support of many European countries and many more from all over the world. As we all do. So we decided to put our cards on the table. Because we also concluded that we believe – as do practically all key players in the world – that one single candidate would have a bigger chance to win the election. Prince Ali Al Hussein convincingly demonstrated that at this moment in time, he is the candidate who has the biggest chance to challenge Sepp Blatter.

So I offered Prince Ali Al Hussein that I was willing to withdraw my candidacy if he was willing to adopt some of the key elements of my program. I do believe that he is the one candidate who has the largest chance to mobilize enough votes to beat mister Blatter, but I also stand for my program, so I had to ensure that – even if I decided not to run – the program for which I stand would find its way into the program of the final running candidate.

His Royal Highness responded enthusiastically and embraced proposals such as the President’s Board. This means that the future president of FIFA has less power to decide unilaterally and important decisions will be taken in cooperation with the presidents of the confederations. Also, the Prince gave his support to my proposals to include human rights in the bidding procedure for future World Cups and he promised to actively combat discrimination of ethnic and sexual minorities.

Finally, the Prince also agreed to limit the maximum amount of presidency terms to two and to quadruple the yearly allowance to member states.

As I already said, this campaign never was about me finding another job. I am perfectly happy with my current position. It was about improving the sport. I see this move in the campaign as the next step in the battle for a better FIFA. Since the start of this campaign I have stressed that my motivation to run for President was to prepare FIFA for the next generation. They deserve a fair, modern and better FIFA.

After speaking to my team and my board within the Royal Netherlands Football Association, several conversations with the Prince and the negotiations about our programs, I believe that the next generation is already prepared and ready to take over. I wholeheartedly support the Prince in his endeavour and ask from the member states that already promised me their support to vote for mister Ali Al Hussein in the upcoming elections, to truly accomplish football for everyone.

Figo didn’t endorse the Prince but he released an absolutely scathing statement when he withdrew yesterday, just hours after Van Praag.

Luis Figo’s statement sent  to The Associated Press

Running for president of FIFA resulted from a personal decision, taken after listening to many pertinent people in the realm of international soccer.

I sought out the support needed for me to stand, I formally presented my candidacy, and the reactions in the soccer world were so overwhelming – both in public and in private – that I was reassured that I had made the right decision.

The realm of a sport which gave me everything to become what I am, and to which I now offered to give something back, is hungry for change. FIFA needs change and I feel that the change is urgent.

Guided by that wish, by the formal support I collected, and by the incredible wave of support from soccer players, former players, coaches, referees and administrators, I imagined and presented a plan of action – my election manifesto for the FIFA presidency.

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.

That is why, after a personal reflection and sharing views with two other candidates in this process, I believe that what is going to happen on May 29 in Zurich is not a normal electoral act.

And because it is not, don’t count on me.

I want it to be clear that I have deep respect for all world soccer, from Africa, where I got so much motivation, to Asia, where I have and will keep excellent relationships, through South America, where a new generation is emerging, and Central and North America, where so many who wanted to speak were silenced, and to Oceania, whose development we should all look at differently. And finally to Europe, where I felt there was space for normal and democratic debate, thanks to the endeavors of President (Michel) Platini.

I give my warmest thanks to everyone, because I want it to be clear that they are not the election committee and it is not they who want FIFA to become weaker and weaker.

For my part, I will abide by the ideas I leave written and have circulated, I am firm in my desire to take an active part in the regeneration of FIFA and I will be available for it whenever it is proven to me that we are not living under a dictatorship.

I do not fear the ballot box, but I will not go along with nor will I give my consent to a process which will end on May 29 and from which soccer will not emerge the winner.

My decision is made, I will not stand in what is being called an election for the FIFA presidency.

I offer my deepest thanks to all those who have supported me and I ask them to keep alive their desire for a regeneration which, though it may take some time, will come.

Oof. He certainly didn’t pull any punches there, nor should he.

prince-ali-bin-al-hussein-fifa-vice-president_3259848Prince Ali bin al-Hussein is now the only person running against Blatter. He has revised his original manifesto to incorporate some of Van Praag’s ideas.

One of the main ideas that the Prince has put forth is expanding the number of teams to 36 for the 2018 World Cup:

A commitment to extend the number of countries participating in the World Cup from 32 to 36 teams as soon as possible, with a view to further, development-led expansion to be considered thereafter. I am committed to exploring all options to enable this expansion urgently, ideally in time for the 2018 World Cup.

He has also proposed giving each member association at least $1 million per year and that future FIFA presidents be limited to two four-year terms.

Will this be enough to defeat Blatter? We’ll know on May 29. Again, I urge you to watch Jeremy Schaap’s expose on Sepp & FIFA to get a full idea of what the Prince is fighting against.

– Lozil

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