The next president of FIFA should be the man (or woman) who is prepared to “take the locks off the doors and open the windows” according to Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, who harbours refreshed ambitions to do precisely that.
Prince Ali, chipped away at the foundations beneath Sepp Blatter last May when the head of the Jordanian Football Association denied the 79-year-old Swiss an outright first-round knockout at the election congress in Zurich.
Four days further into his fifth term as president Blatter announced his intention to step down. Prince Ali is poised to campaign again with a decision expected within the next few days – though contenders have until October 26 to rally at least five written nominations for the election next February 26 back in Zurich.
In a wide-ranging discourse at the Soccer Global Convention in Manchester, Prince Ali reviewed the FIFA battleground, reiterated his belief in the need for ‘a new beginning,’ for transparency which is ‘more than a slogan’ and for an end to anti-democratic intimidation from within the regional confederations.
He also criticised Blatter for not taking responsibility for scandal-scarred events under his presidency and quitting and derided the presidental ambitions of Michel Platini and Chung Mong-joon because they represented the old guard who had failed not only FIFA but football.
The Jordanian prince is an apparent voice in the wilderness within his own Asian confederation since its president, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, is a declared supporter of Platini.
However he said: “I’m talking to national associations, listening to their opinions, what they see for the future and getting my own ideas. We need a candidate who is forward thinking, who will bring some new ideas and is not tainted by the past. So just stay tuned . . . not for very long.”
The need for reform – and, though he did not say it – a process not directed by the confederations-stacked new committee created by Blatter, is paramount in Prince Ali’s thinking.
He said: “We have to change the entire way FIFA is run, conducted. Unfortunately we’ve lost a year in terms of reforming FIFA but hopefully and that’s disappointing but hopefully, come February, we can have a new beginning.
“We have to look to the future now and we have very little time. The whole world is watching and as much as people love the sport of football the reputation of FIFA is very poor and that’s a real shame.
“What is relevant is to look to the future and bring back the reputation of FIFA which is a challenge in itself but we have to do it.
“We have to take the locks off the doors and open the windows. There is no need for secrecy. People want to know what we are, who we are, how the money is spent, how much are paid and that is transparency and openness. It’s OK to ask for truly independent outside bodies to help us out in reforming the organisation and if we do that correctly we will get our sponsors much more excited.”
Prince Ali as adamant that already-declared Michel Platini, the French president of European federation UEFA, and Chung Mong-joon, the South Korean honorary vice-president of FIFA, are not the men to accomplish the task at hand.
He said: “When Dr Chung was our Asian vice-president I didn’t have much interaction with him. However the important thing [for FIFA] is to have new beginning and new ideas therefore any candidate who has been in the organisation for a long time is not what is needed.”
Platini’s presidency bid came in for similar derision.
Prince Ali said: “I have tremendous respect for Mr Platini both as a UEFA president and as a former football player but at the same time there is a difference between UEFA and FIFA.
“FIFA is in a crisis right now and we need a new beginning and whether, anybody likes it or not, Michel Platini’s introduction into football governance was as protege of Sepp Blatter. That’s a reality.
“I want a candidate who really believes in reform and in full transparency and who means it, not as a slogan.
“I’ve sat down with Michel Platini and listened to him and his ideas but I think it’s my responsibility to try to make sure that the future is different from the past and therefore I was not very encouraged. It’s nothing personal. It’s about the world game not about individuals.”