Blatter left with one rival for FIFA presidential election

Luis Figo and Michael van Praag withdraw from FIFA presidential elections, leaving Sepp Blatter with Jordan’s prince as only challenger

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Luis Figo and Michael van Praag pulled out of the FIFA presidential election race on Thursday, leaving Jordan's Prince Ali Bin al Hussein as the only challenger to incumbent and runaway favourite Sepp Blatter.

Figo went out with a bang as he launched a blistering attack on the electoral system of soccer's governing body, saying it was a "plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man -- something I refuse to go along with."

The former Portugal forward added: "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.

"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."

Blatter, 79, is widely to expected to be re-elected for a fifth term on May 29, even though, under his watch, FIFA has been plagued by a wave of scandals and controversy.

These have ranged from allegations of corruption in the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process to a row over $25,000 watches gifted to executive committee members at the World Cup in Brazil last year.

UEFA, with 53 of the 209 votes at the election, have said they will not back Blatter, but the Swiss has widespread promises of support from the rest of the world.

Dutch FA president Van Praag pledged to back Prince Ali and, in a joint press conference in Amsterdam, said that the only way to unseat Blatter was for his opponents to unite.