The team for the FIFA presidential final has been announced, and it will be a five-a-side, not seven-a-side contest leading up to the February vote.
On the bench
If FIFA were a team then its ad-hoc Electoral Committee would be more like a caretaker manager, so leaving out the star player, UEFA president Michel Platini, may seem like folly.
Sick as a parrot
The very idea of the FIFA’s Ethics Committee barring Musa Bility as a candidate because the Liberian has failed to meet its standards seems more like cheek.
But in truth they, and indeed all the candidates to a greater or lesser degree have evolved within a system that has been allowed for over 40 years to develop powers without responsibility and amass unaccountable wealth and influence. All in the name of the peoples’ sport, fair play, and bringing the world together.
There appears to be a general consensus that FIFA needs radical reform and restructuring. Dismantling the Havelange-Blatter apparatus will take time and determination. It has stood since 1974, when Europeans lost the FIFA presidency for the first time to the Brazilian Joao Havelange. For this election, there will be two Europeans standing.
The ‘fallen angel’
Jerome Champagne is a 57-year-old former French diplomat and freelance football journalist who became involved in the 1998 World Cup and then joined FIFA the following year. By 2010 he was Deputy Vice President and seen as a Blatter favourite, but he was thrown out after clashing with the boss. He failed to get the necessary five football associations to back his candidature. The Electoral Committee appears to have decided that doesn’t matter.
The second choice
Gianni Infantino is a 45-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer and FIFA member since 2000. He has spent his life working in sport, mainly in the legal, commercial, licencing, professional football, and public body liaison fields. FIFA General Secretary since 2009, he knows the organisations’ ins and outs intimately. Perhaps too intimately. Was Michel Platini’s right-hand-man until a couple of weeks ago, and says he will step aside if Platini is readmitted to the race when his 90-day suspension is up in January.
Dust off your Vuvuzelas
Less than three weeks ago one of South Africa’s wealthiest men was not even mentioned as a candidate. A backer of the victorious 2010 World Cup bid the 62-year-old former anti-apartheid campaigner Tokyo Sexwale spent 13 years with Nelson Mandela on terrorism charges in Robben island. He is a FIFA member of its anti-discrimination and anti-racism committee, and media committee. He has called racism “a monster that is trying to infiltrate sport”.
The half-brother bids for his own kingdom
Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein may defer to his sibling king in Jordan, but was on Platini’s heels in announcing his candidature. He lasted until the final round against Blatter in the May election, the 33-year-old gaining 73 votes to Blatter’s 133. With the Frenchman on the sidelines and unable to campaign, the youngest candidate is the new front-runner.
Don’t mention Formula 1
Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa almost left it until the last minute to submit his candidature, 24 hours before the deadline. Only Bility and Infantino waited longer.
A member of the Bahraini Royal Family, the 49-year-old has powerful Kuwaiti backing, but powerful critics who say he is implicated in the repression of Bahrain’s political opposition.