RIO DE JANEIRO: Zico, still scraping around for five nominations which would allow him to stand for the FIFA presidency, believes Sepp Blatter still maintains a majority of support among the world’s football federations writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The 62-year-old former World Cup hero declared an presidency interest shortly after FIFA set February 26 for an extraordinary congress to elect Blatter’s successor.

However he has been given only minimal encouragement by Marco Polo Del Nero, controversial president of Brazil’s own confederation.

Del Nero is a member of the FIFA executive committee but has not attended any of its crisis-time meetings over the past four months because he fears arrest in the United States’ FIFAGate investigation should he leave the safety of Brazil.

Zico needs written nominations from five national associations if he is to contest the election.

Explaining Del Nero’s caution, Zico said: “The [CBF] president was clear: ‘If you can bring us four other nominations then you can count on the necessary fifth from Brazil – though this would not guarantee a vote of support in February.'”

Zico added: “Everyone knows all about block votes and that what the continental confederation may rule is what its FAs accept. I think the federations should have freedom of choice without fear of consequences. For example, look at Asia: Japan’s goals are not the same as those of Vietnam.”

He did not feel slighted by Del Nero’s response.

Defence claim

Zico said: “Del Nero has always treated me very well and with respect. I am his friend but I approached him in his role as president of my country’s federation. I don’t regret that . . . It’s important not to confuse an organisation with individuals.”

This latter argument is one which Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have used in defence of FIFA of which they are president and a vice-president (albeit currently suspended). They have always insisted that FIFA itself is not corrupt, only certain individuals within the organisation.

Zico acknowledged that the suspensions of Blatter and Platini had cast the presidency election into uncertainty.

He said: “I don’t believe Blatter’s status is relevant because he would not promote or support someone. But I have no doubt that, if the election were held today and he could stand, he would still have a majority, even with everything that has happened.

“As for Platini, everyone knows he has been the favourite. He had support from Europe, Asia and CONMEBOL [South America]. Now the scenario has changed and I don’t know whether these three continents still feel the same after events of recent days.”

Whoever took over the presidency, said Zico in a question-and-answer exchange with Brazilian journalists, FIFA needed “to go back and start from scratch.”

Crucial areas for reform included World Cup bidding, the sale of TV rights and the election process itself.

He said: “The election process is already compromised. Why should I, with 45 years in football, still need five nominations to stand for president? There are others, like me, with a great deal to offer but also in need of support.

“Then again, if tomorrow you provided assistance to a federation which happened to have supported you, people will say it was because of the nomination it provided.”