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Luis Figo Pulls Out Of Fifa Presidential Race To Leave Two-Horse Race

Luis Figo

Luis Figo has pulled out of the Fifa presidential race with a stinging broadside against Sepp Blatter and the electoral process.

After the Dutch FA president, Michael van Praag, also withdrew, as expected, Blatter is left with the Jordanian former Fifa executive committee member Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein as his only challenger.

Figo, the former world footballer of the year who, like Van Praag, launched his candidacy with a strident speech and glossy manifesto, had been frustrated by Blatter’s refusal to countenance a public debate and compared his 17-year tenure to a “dictatorship”. The Portuguese former Barcelona and Real Madrid player said that the process was “anything but an election”.

“This process is a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man – something I refuse to go along with,” he said. “That is why, after a personal reflection and sharing views with two other candidates in this process, I believe that what is going to happen on May 29 in Zurich is not a normal electoral act.”

While he said some supported his desire for change, Figo said that at recent meetings of the continental confederations around the world he witnessed behaviour that “should shame anyone who desires soccer to be free, clean and democratic”. He added: “I have seen with my own eyes federation presidents who, after one day comparing Fifa leaders to the devil, then go on stage and compare those same people with Jesus Christ. Nobody told me about this. I saw it with my own eyes.”

Figo was apparently referring to the Concacaf congress at which Blatter was improbably compared to Jesus, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. “The candidates were prevented from addressing federations at congresses while one of the candidates always gave speeches on his own from the rostrum. There has not been a single public debate about each candidate’s proposals,” he added.

Blatter has refused to publish a manifesto or debate his scandal-hit presidency atop world football’s governing body, while only Uefa allowed the challengers to address delegates from the podium.

The Uefa president, Michel Platini, welcomed the three challengers when they announced their candidacy, hoping they would be able to attack Blatter from different angles in a “multi-ball” strategy. But Blatter managed to choke off any debate and is widely expected to secure victory in the vote of 209 national associations next Friday. He is standing for a fifth term despite having earlier promised to stand down in 2015.

Figo said: “For my part, I will abide by the ideas I leave written and have circulated, I am firm in my desire to take an active part in the regeneration of Fifa and I will be available for it whenever it is proven to me that we are not living under a dictatorship. I do not fear the ballot box, but I will not go along with nor will I give my consent to a process which will end on May 29 and from which soccer will not emerge the winner.”

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