FIFA president Sepp Blatter is bidding for a fifth term at the helm of world football’s governing body - and nobody, it seems, can stop him.
Yes, that includes David Ginola. Yes, that includes Luis Figo. The two ex-professionals have thrown their hats into the ring and, in the process, gained some headlines across Europe.
Whilst the Frenchman has insisted his campaign is genuine, it’s not hard to see what galvanised his passion for football politics. £250,000 over five months from bookmaker Paddy Power served to be a nice little earner for the housewives’ favourite.
Somebody obviously forgot to read the rule book though; more specifically Article 25 of FIFA’s ethics code. Candidates are forbidden from ‘being associated with betting, gambling, lotteries and similar events’. Oh dear. Hope you didn’t ‘invest’ in the scheme.
If you did, then a refund is coming your way at least, after a message posted on Thursday on the campaign website confirmed money would be returned to supporters. It isn't the end of the fight for Ginola though, who insists he will now fight on without the betting company.
The effort of Figo at least appears a little more genuine, with the Portuguese legend saying all the right things in an attempt to drum up support. Ginola tried to do the same thing, but with a ‘Team Ginola’ and ‘Paddy Power’ slogan behind him, there was never any credibility.
Figo can also point to his four years of work as part of the UEFA football committee as a stepping-stone for something much bigger.
"Football has given me so much during my life and I want to give something back to the game. I look at the reputation of FIFA right now and I don't like it. Football deserves better,” he said, according to the BBC.
"In recent weeks, months, and even years, I have seen the image of FIFA deteriorate. As I speak to many people in football - to players, managers and association presidents - so many of those people have told me that something has to be done.”
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It’s honourable that Figo has decided to do something, but perhaps foolish to put his name in the frame for FIFA presidency just 48 hours before the deadline for candidates to register their interest in standing for election. The midnight deadline on Thursday has now come and gone.
He isn’t without support, it must be said. Jose Mourinho is a good friend of his compatriot, who played under him at Inter Milan, and offered a glowing reference on Wednesday.
"Luis Figo's candidacy is a great step forward for football. His career over many years grants a better future for FIFA,” Mourinho told a press conference, as reported in The Guardian.
"I believe in his character and determination, as well as his passion for the game. He will be a president focused on football and its general improvement, acting closely with all federations.”
The problem, of course, is that Mourinho doesn’t have a say when the ballot papers change hands. That’s a shame - ‘the special one’ is the type of man who likes to challenge authority. Figo does claim to have the required five nominations from the 209 members who get their vote on the matter however, and that really could make things interesting when the final list of candidates are announced next week.
It will be an uphill battle to beat Blatter though; a man who has been president for 17-years, winning his fourth term unopposed after Mohamed Bin Hammam was taken out of the running in 2011. He subsequently won 186 votes out of the 203 available. That does mean 17 organisations decided not to tick the box next to the 78-year-old's name - including the English FA.
Michel Platini, head of UEFA, is one of the strongest voices against Blatter. The Frenchman agreed to give the support of his federation to the Swiss administrator in 2011 on the understanding that it would be his last term in office. That promise has been broken, and the head of European football decided it was time to act in June last year. However, he’s opted not to stand himself.
Instead, the French legend will urge his members to vote for another candidate when the time comes - for that to be Figo, you’d have to imagine a major late shift in thinking in Nyon.
Big name appeal
What the former Barcelona and Real Madrid superstar does have going for him, of course, is that big-name appeal. It might be the only way to go in an effort to persuade smaller nations that there is another way. Blatter wields power at the lower levels of world football and it pays dividends come election time - Somalia’s FA, who were the first to put Blatter forward in 2011, have the same sway as England's FA.
Of the 209 voting members in May, 54 come from UEFA. For any candidate to stand a chance of beating Blatter, they will need all those votes to come their way. That’s the first challenge. The second, and significantly more difficult challenge, is to persuade voting members in Africa, South America, Oceania, Asia and the Concacaf to turn their back on a man who has helped pump significant funds into their respective confederations.
Blatter has distributed vast sums of money into the smaller voting nations, spreading the World Cup fortune far and wide through initiatives like the Goal programme, which provides cash to fund football projects among 'lesser' football nations. In the process, it's likely to secure another precious vote each time.
A name isn’t a guarantee though - look closer to home and you’ll still see some egg on the face of the Football Association in England, who sent David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron to Zurich for the World Cup bidding process in December 2010. The aim was to woo voters, but Blatter swung it in a completely different direction.
Credibility meets popularity
That doesn’t discredit the theory completely though, and Figo has credibility as a football man around the world. But just how good would he be alongside a genuine behind-the-desk figure like Michael Van Praag. A solid combination of mass appeal and business authority that gathers momentum across Europe.
As we know though, support across one continent simply isn’t enough. That’s what makes Prince Ali of Jordan such an enticing option, and is perhaps one of the reasons why the big wigs at Wembley have been willing to back him to begin with at least. At this stage, the theory is to get as many people through the door as possible to challenge Blatter’s power.
Jerome Champagne has also stated his intention to challenge, but has always struggled to make the five required nominations. Like Ginola, he looks like an early faller - leaving five potential candidates.
That number could make things complicated when push comes to shove, but removes the possibility of what happened four years ago when Bin Hammam - the only challenger - pulled out 72 hours before the big race began.
A harsh reality
But too many cooks can spoil the broth, and if those voting against Blatter split into two separate camps, all hope is lost. It’s an uphill challenge to usurp the leader, and with three people now looking to head the uprising, it seems far less possible.
With four months until the big sit-down, there is still time for a significant twist or turn. One thing is for sure - if UEFA have not got their house in order, they’ll quickly fall at Blatter's feet once again.
The lure of a legend like Figo may only serve to be detrimental to the cause.
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