Luis Figo names 5 European nominees for FIFA election bid

AP News
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Posted: Jan 30, 2015 12:51 PM
Luis Figo names 5 European nominees for FIFA election bid

GENEVA (AP) — Two would-be FIFA presidents stepped up campaigning on Friday after nominations closed to challenge Sepp Blatter for the most powerful job in world football.

Luis Figo identified the five national federations that formally nominated him, and FIFA Vice President Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan pledged not to "dodge my responsibility" if elected to lead the scandal-hit governing body.

Portugal great Figo said in a statement he received the endorsement of Denmark, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Poland.

He was also backed by his own national federation before the entry deadline on Thursday.

Figo joined Dutch federation president Michael van Praag in having nominations only from Europe, where opposition to Blatter is focused.

Blatter, who has headed FIFA for 17 years, has not said which five of FIFA's 209 members nominated him for the May 29 election.

The 42-year-old Figo has little track record in football politics, and was a surprise entry this week.

"It has been a great start — my thanks to everyone concerned," the former Barcelona and Real Madid playmaker said.

"I would like to thank my colleagues and friends from the nominating FAs and across the global football family who have already given their backing to my campaign, and sent messages encouraging me in this mission."

Blatter is strongly favored to win a fifth presidential term from members who show little desire for change, despite bribery and election scandals implicating several of his colleagues on the ruling executive committee.

On the 78-year-old Blatter's watch, the World Cup has been a huge commercial success. FIFA has built a $1.5 billion cash reserve, and distributed around $200 million from 2014 World Cup profits in bonus payments to federations and continental confederations.

UEFA is the only one of FIFA's six continental bodies actively campaigning against Blatter.

Van Praag named the five European associations nominating him, at his campaign launch on Wednesday: Belgium, the Faeroe Islands, Romania, Scotland and Sweden.

England has said it is formally backing Prince Ali, the FIFA vice president for Asia who shapes as the only non-European in the contest.

Prince Ali issued a statement on Friday saying he was prepared to "accept accountability at all times."

"I will not attempt to shift blame or dodge my responsibility for the actions of FIFA," said the 39-year-old prince, who is president of Jordan's FA.

Prince Ali said he plans a news conference next week in London, and to spend time meeting federation leaders and hearing from football stakeholders before publishing his manifesto.

"This approach to my election campaign reflects my approach to the FIFA presidency — honest, open and collegiate," he said.

Prince Ali's campaign also has European roots. He has been encouraged to run by UEFA President Michel Platini, and his statement on Friday was issued by consultants also retained by UEFA.

Former FIFA official Jerome Champagne, a longtime Blatter ally from France, also sought to enter the race, though he has not confirmed if he submitted nomination papers.

Former France player David Ginola said Friday he failed to secure the required nominations, ending a short-lived and largely shambolic campaign. Ginola was paid 250,000 pounds ($380,000) to run by a sponsoring betting firm, itself a possible breach of FIFA's code of ethics.

It could be two weeks before the official field of candidates is confirmed.

FIFA has created an election oversight panel, led by its audit committee chairman Domenico Scala, which will validate nomination papers and receive vetting reports from FIFA's ethics committee.