THE three challengers bidding to unseat Sepp Blatter as president of Fifa have discussed joining forces against the 79-year-old Swiss incumbent.
A spokesman for Dutch football federation president Michael van Praag said yesterday in a written statement that the three share a collective goal “to achieve change within Fifa”.
“It is good that there is a growing international coalition striving for that goal,” Van Praag’s spokesman, Sebastiaan van der Laan, said in the statement. “That is our main focus now, it is too early to talk about which candidate might have the best chance.”
Van der Laan, however, did not address a report in Dutch daily De Volkskrant that said Van Praag will likely quit the race. The story was based on anonymous Fifa sources.
Former Portugal great Luis Figo and Fifa vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan are also running against Blatter.
At least one candidate is expected to withdraw before the 29 May election to help present a united opposition against Blatter, who is strongly favoured to win a fifth term.
Van Praag announced his candidacy in January, saying he had the support of five federations: Belgium, Sweden, Scotland, Romania and the Faroe Islands, as well as the Netherlands. It is unclear how much backing he has managed to secure since then. He proudly announced last month that Suriname, a former Dutch colony that still has close ties to the Netherlands, had given him its support.
In his campaign, Van Praag has cast himself as a strong and experienced administrator who wants to reform Fifa and then step aside after a single term in office to make way for a new generation.
He said when launching his campaign that Fifa under Blatter “is constantly under suspicion. Of conflicts of interest, of nepotism, of corruption”.
Van Praag is a member of Uefa’s executive committee but has appeared to be the most independent of the three challengers.
Prince Ali and Figo have both been advised by London-based consultants, whose services Van Praag said he declined.
Meanwhile, World Cup sponsors Visa have expressed “grave concern” to Fifa over conditions facing migrant workers in Qatar, the host nation of the 2022 tournament.
Fifa president Blatter told Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in March that the Gulf nation must do more to improve guest workers’ lives. But rights groups continue to express concern, particularly over living conditions for migrant workers and labour laws.
Credit card company Visa said: “We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions.
“We have expressed our grave concern to Fifa and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organisations to remedy this situation.”
Visa’s Fifa sponsorship runs through to the 2022 World Cup tournament.