CAIRO: Luis Figo has questioned African football president Issa Hayatou’s promise that all 54 of the continent’s nations will vote for Sepp Blatter in next month’s FIFA presidential election writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Figo, former World Player of the Year, is challenging Blatter in the vote at the world federation’s congress in Zurich on May 29 along with FIFA’s Asian vice-president Prince Ali of Jordan and Dutch federation chair Michael Van Praag.

The trio were present at the African Football Confederation congress in Cairo on Tuesday when Hayatou made his pledge to Blatter – who was the only of the three allowed to address the delegates.

Figo, who is hoping for support from at least Africa’s former Portuguese colonies, said: “I’m positive Mr Hayatou did not speak in the name of the 54 members of the confederation.

“Even when he announced he would support Blatter, we could notice a difference from past congresses when a statement like that normally is followed by a standing ovation.

“This time we heard just a normal applause, which confirms my idea that a lot of African countries understand and agree with the need to change for the better of everyone, especially the national associations.

“In fact there were federation presidents who assured me they would vote for me but they were reluctant to say this out loud because they feared reactions against them, their federations and even their countries.”

This ‘culture of intimidation’ – as it has been labelled by Prince Ali – was one reason the former Portugal captain decided to stand for election.

He added: “To end this kind of atmosphere is why I decided to be a candidate. Football should be about a beautiful game and people should be able to express themselves freely and openly.”