KEIR RADNEDGE in LAUSANNE: Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, Asia’s outgoing FIFA vice-president, will fulfil his promise and carry his presidential campaign all the way to Congress in Zurich next Thursday.
The president of the Jordanian football federation has always by far the most likely of the three challengers to incumbent Sepp Blatter to gather votes from around the world.
Whether he can gather enough votes is another issue.
The challenge for a man whose quiet purposefulness has impressed allies and critics alike is, on the one hand, to amass enough votes to inflict on Blatter the embarrassment of not winning by a first-round knockout and, then, to float a vision for the world game which will set the agenda for the next four years until new candidates find the courage to stand up against the empire.
Hence Prince Ali was left as the last challenger standing after Michael Van Praag and Luis Figo tumbled out of the campaign in quick succession on Thursday. Both issued lengthy statements of explanation (articles below).
Prince Ali recently set out his stall on home territory during the Soccerex Asian Forum at the Dead Sea. One of the benefits of his four years in FIFA, he said, had been learning about the day-to-day grassroots challenges facing many federations, particularly the poorest, in terms of development, resources and infrastructure.
He had also seen how the FIFA image had been damaged by all the secrecy and intrigue of the Blatter years.
Prince Ali said: “We have to be a lot more open and transparent in how we do things. There’s nothing to hide – or there shouldn’t be. We have to have a stronger regional voice. You cannot run everything from Zurich.”
Van Praag, putting a bold face on his failure to accrue any significant support beyond Europe, boasted that Prince Ali had agreed to adopt his own keys proposals, such as:
1, the ‘president’s board’ which means that the future president of FIFA has less power to decide unilaterally and important decisions will be taken in cooperation with the presidents of the confederations;
2, the inclusion of human rights in the bidding procedure for future World Cups and . . . to actively combat discrimination of ethnic and sexual minorities; and
3, to limit the maximum amount of presidency terms to two and to quadruple the yearly allowance to member states.
As for Figo, he stormed out after unleashing a storm of invective which will guarantee no-one ever offers him a senior managerial role in the game – an item significantly lacking from his c.v if he has any long-term ambition.
Figo railed in a fury against senior officials who said one thing to his face and another behind his back but political leaders defeated in various elections recently could lay the same complaint against people around them.
Otherwise Figo had nothing to offer save well-meaning and common will to enhance grassroots development, a raid on the FIFA reserves to direct more money to the federations and an increase in the number of World Cup finalists.
His departing statement summed up an impression throughout the campaign that he was out of his depth. Questions should be asked within UEFA as to who set him up as a fall guy and why did no-one school him in the nature of the political jungle he was entering.
Something else Prince Ali has learned during his four years on the FIFA executive committee.