FIFA Presidency Soccer's Last-Minute Winner?

A former Portuguese soccer star has announced a surprise bid to unseat the controversial head of the game's powerful but tainted governing body.
Sepp Blatter and Luis Figo: Is the old master about to be unseated by the young upstart?

Former superstar soccer player Luis Figo has announced he will challenge Sepp Blatter for the presidency of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

Mr. Figo, who captained Portugal to the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup, is so far Mr. Blatter's most prominent challenger for the post at the top of the powerful governing body. He revealed his intention to stand just one day before nominations closed.

“I am pleased to announce my candidacy for the presidency of FIFA. Soccer has given me so much in my life, and I want to give something in return,” the Portuguese player said on Twitter.

In a television interview with CNN, Mr. Figo revealed that the scandal had played a part in his decision to stand. “When you search for FIFA on the web, the first word that comes up is 'scandal' — and no positive words.”

“That's what we have to change first in order to improve FIFA's image. Soccer deserves something better,” he said.

When you search FIFA on the web, the first word that comes up is 'scandal' — and no positive words. Luis Figo, Former soccer star

Faith in FIFA has been shaken recently over allegations that corruption played a large part in the selection of locations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, which were awarded to Qatar and Russia.

Mr. Blatter has been president of FIFA for four terms and had initially planned to step down at the end of the current term. But he later decided to run for an unprecedented fifth term, drawing criticism from many quarters.


Figo on the field.



Mr Figo, a midfield mastermind on the pitch, was World Soccer Player of the Year in 2001 and played at the World Cup in 2002 as well as 2006.

He also played for Spain's top teams, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, and with Inter Milan in Italy. He ended his career in 2009.

To qualify as a candidate for the FIFA presidency, Mr. Figo has to prove that he has played an active role in soccer for at least two of the past five years and that he has the support of five national soccer associations.

Besides Mr. Blatter and Mr. Figo, the other contenders for the presidency are FIFA vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein from Jordan, former FIFA functionary Jérôme Champagne and the president of the Dutch soccer association Michael van Praag. Former French national player David Ginola declared his intention to stand but has since withdrawn.

FIFA's 209 member countries will vote for a new president at a congress in Zurich on May 29.


This article originally appeared in the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. To contact the author: [email protected]