Luis Figo is up and running as a FIFA presidential candidate. After a cascade of support from golden oldie players without a vote or influential place within their national associations, Portugal’s record international has at least come up with some precise ideas.
Figo fulfils UEFA president Michel Platini’s belief that football “should be led by players not by administrators” though whether he will be the man who will ultimately carry Europe’s banner into battle against incumbent Sepp Blatter at congress in Zurich on May 29 is another matter.
FIFA’s Asian vice-president Prince Ali of Jordan and Dutch federation president Michael Van Praag will have other ideas. Either way Platini, having preferred to stay above the fray, will play a decisive role in deciding which man stays the course.
Figo is confident in his own status and manifesto which he set out in a campaign launch at Wembley today.
His credentials in general football terms are beyond question. Now 42, he enjoyed a stellar career with Sporting Clube, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Internazionale and scored 32 goals in winning a record 127 caps for Portugal.
Along the way, as a spearhead of Portugal’s so-called ‘golden generation’ he won 18 domestic trophies and five international prizes. He was also voted FIFA World Player once, European Footballer of the Year once and Portuguese top player six times.
However, Figo’s credentials in term of manifesto pledges may turn few heads among the 209 national associations who have heard them all before and still voted for Sepp Blatter in 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2011.
Figo, like all UEFA loyalists, has no doubt about the need for change within FIFA.
He said: “Everyone has told me that something has to change. This is why I want to become FIFA president. I’m not the kind of man who sits back and refuses to act. I want a new style of leadership of FIFA that will restore transparency, co-operation and solidarity.
“This will not be a quick fix: it requires fundamental changes.”
Those fundamental changes include:
1, stepping up FIFA’s worldwide financial investment in grassroots football;
2, handing back to the national associations $1bn of FIFA’s £1.5bn cash reserves;
3, expanding the World Cup to 40 or 48 nations;
4, creating an advisory council for the president and reconfiguring the membership of the executive committee.
Figo said: “I was very lucky and fortunate to get training from a very yung age but this opportunity does note exist for most children in the world. FIFA needs to do much more to tackle situation. It is why I have placed grassoots football at the heart of my manifesto.”
Of all four candidates, Figo is the first to present a manifesto with detailed proposals though Prince Ali and Van Praag have already staged formal campaign launches. Blatter has refrained from doing so, preferring to stay above the scramble to secure the likely role as the one challenger to stand against him on May 29.