ZURICH: Jerome Champagne, first man to throw his hat in the ring against Sepp Blatter, was taken by surprise by the FIFA president’s sudden resignation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Champagne, former French diplomat who spent 11 years working close to Blatter at FIFA, launched his own candidacy in January last year but was unable to obtain the necessary nominations to carry the fight on.

Asked whether he was surprised by Blatter’s sudden U-turn, Champagne said: “Really yes, after having achieved such a clear victory on Friday.

“But I was also impressed by the strong resolve [in his statment] to clean and reform FIFA and the world pyramid before a new electoral process would take place.

“As far as I understood, it is not a resignation but a shortened mandate.

“I welcome the deep-rooted organizational overhaul which has been announced because, as a candidate, I defended strong reforms of the FIFA governance and executive committee.”

Champagne, who created by far the most thoughtful and insightful manifesto of any of the canddates, will take some time reflecting on whether to run again.

He said: “It is way too early to decide and/or announce anything like that. The future will tell but nothing is excluded.”