By Brian Homewood
BERNE (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Zico has invited his potential rivals to take part in an early debate about soccer's troubled governing body.
The former Brazil international has sent an email to Michel Platini, Musa Bility, David Nakhid and Chung Mong-joon, who have also declared their intention to run, saying that "FIFA deserves a debate at this preliminary stage".
"We all agree that FIFA needs to evolve into a much better organization, particularly in matters of democracy and transparency," said Zico in the email, a copy of which was sent to Reuters.
"Change, however, is not an event. It is a process and we must start by making sure this election is fair, transparent and democratic.
"It is of the utmost importance that all member associations get the chance to know better all potential candidates and their ideas as soon as possible."
UEFA president Platini, a former French international, is considered the front-runner to win the election to replace the outgoing Sepp Blatter on Feb. 26.
Zico has admitted that he faces a tough battle to get the written backing of five national associations (FAs) by Oct. 26, as required by the FIFA electoral rules, to allow him to run for the presidency.
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) have promised to support him only if he first gets the backing of four other FAs.
Bility, president of the Liberian FA, is also struggling after failing to get the support of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
South African businessman and former political prisoner Tokyo Sexwale is also considering a bid and told reporters last week that he still had to make up his mind.
Zico said: "Einstein would say that insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, expecting different results. It is therefore very important that we build this election with much more democracy and transparency.
"It is time all member associations, its constituents and everybody concerned with football worldwide learn more about the potential candidates. Everybody interested in football should somehow participate in this election."
"I invite you to join efforts in order to stimulate and organize a public debate with all the potential candidates at the earliest possible date."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)