Prince Ali to challenge Blatter

LONDON - Fifa vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan will stand for election in a bid to oust Sepp Blatter as leader of football’s scandal-hit world governing body.

The 39-year-old Prince Ali declared his intention yesterday to stand as a candidate in the Fifa presidential election on May 29 in Zurich, where Blatter has pledged to seek a fifth mandate at age 79.

“This was not an easy decision,” the prince said in a single-page statement in which he pledged to run a positive campaign and did not specifically mention Blatter.

“It came after careful consideration and many discussions with respected Fifa colleagues over the last few months.”

“The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change,” said Prince Ali, who has been encouraged to run by Uefa and its president Michel Platini.

During Blatter’s 17-year leadership, Fifa has been rocked by bribery allegations in presidential and World Cup hosting elections, kickbacks paid to senior officials and World Cup ticket scams.

Fifa’s image sank further last month when ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia resigned with a parting shot at Blatter’s leadership style and the organisation’s seeming unwillingness to reform itself.

Prince Ali said that, “it is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport.”

“The world’s game deserves a world-class governing body an international federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance,” said the prince, whose reputation is untainted since joining Fifa’s executive committee on the day of Blatter’s most recent re-election in June 2011.

Blatter has survived by avoiding personal scandal and deft political mastery of an often secretive organisation he joined in 1975, before Prince Ali was born. The veteran Swiss official has said his mission to lead world football is unfinished.

Fifa member federations which elect the president in a secret ballot have also shown little desire to remove Blatter as they receive increasing shares of billion-dollar annual income from commercial deals tied to the world’s most-watched sports event.

Prince Ali did not specify which five of Fifa’s 209 members will nominate him for the presidency, as required before a January 29 deadline. He is likely to get support from much of Europe and parts of the Asian Football Confederation.

However, he is far from certain to get a majority of support from the Asian confederation, which is led by Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain.

Prince Ali has led Jordan’s football federation since 1999 and the following year founded the West Asian Football Federation.

At Fifa, he led the successful campaign to lift a ban on female Islamic players wearing headscarves in its competitions. – Press Association

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