We all know FIFA is rotten, but could it be about to get a bit sweeter?
Standing unopposed in the last two presidential elections, Sepp Blatter has ruled FIFA since 1998 but that could all be about to come to an end with the announcement that Prince Ali bin Al Hussein is set to challenge him at the upcoming elections.
The Jordanian prince, who has not only a royal background but a Sandhurst military education as well, could become the youngest FIFA president since the organisation elected its first in 1904 – the 28-year-old Robert Guerin.
The announcement that the 39-year-old prince would run for the presidency was welcomed by UEFA president Michel Platini, who said of him:
“I know Prince Ali well.
“He has all the credibility required to hold high office. We now await his proposals and his programme for the future of football.”
Britain’s vice-president of FIFA, Northern Ireland’s Jim Boyce who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, added
“I have sat on the executive committee with him for three and a half years and I hold him in the highest esteem.
“If he feels something needs to be said, he says it. He comes across to me as being moral and open and we now have the fascinating situation of the 209 members of FIFA being able to make a democratic decision in May.”
Not only does the prince offer the chance to inject new blood into FIFA, he is also an Arsenal fan according to the Kuwait Times, often found at games at the Emirates decked out in jeans and a leather jacket, quite possibly the most important detail of all of this. Obviously.
One of Ali’s campaign points has been to oppose the secrecy of Blatter’s FIFA and has thrown his support behind the publication of the report into the alleged corruption involved in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids compiled by Michael Garcia, calling for it to be published while FIFA attempted to keep it private.
Urging reform, the prince also has no problems engaging with the media unlike many other FIFA executive committee members and his experience as the President of the Jordan Football Association when he was just 24 as well as in setting up the West Asian Football Federation in 2000 and the non-profit Asian Football Development project in 2012 which aimed to help grass roots football in Asia has allowed him to demonstrate a progressive viewpoint.
It was one he used to successfully campaign against female Islamic players being banned from wearing headscarves and hijabs in competitive games.
Although Blatter is still the favourite to secure a fifth term in office, the vice-president’s decision to run is at least one step in the right direction to ending what seems at times like a dictatorship.
“It is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport.
“The headlines should be about football, not about Fifa.”
“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.”
Of course, after I’d written this post and scheduled it this happened:
BREAKING: We’ve suspended betting on @SeppBlatter stepping down as FIFA President by end of 2015 after ‘significant recent activity’.
— Betfair (@Betfair) January 7, 2015