Forty-five minutes that could change soccer's world

Wed May 20, 2015 9:24pm EDT
 
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By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - When Sepp Blatter is not comparing FIFA to a boat in calm or choppy waters he often uses football analogies to illustrate his point so it might amuse him to think he faces a tricky 45 minutes at this month's Congress.

That is when he will have to sit back and listen to the three men challenging his right to remain FIFA president, with each being allowed 15 minutes to score, as it were, a goal that would send him crashing to defeat.

Michael van Praag, 68, the Dutch FA president, Luis Figo, 42, of Portugal, a former World Player of the Year, and Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, 39, the outgoing vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation, are lining up against him.

Unless any of them decide to pull out beforehand, all three will address delegates from FIFA's 209 member associations when they assemble at Zurich's Hallenstadion on May 29, with Blatter then offered the floor to defend his position.

Unless the majority of the traditionally conservative and fiercely loyal Blatter supporters have a totally unexpected change of heart, he will be presented with the winner's bouquet once the votes cast in the secret ballot have been counted.

However, the 79-year-old Swiss, who has been president since 1998 and seen off opponents before, may not get quite the runaway victory he seeks.

For the first time since 1961, when Stanley Rous of England beat two rivals to win the presidency, the names of more than two men will be on the ballot paper.

While Van Praag, Figo and Prince Ali are unlikely to unseat Blatter, their presence and the fact they might muster enough votes to send the contest into a second round, would show that not everyone is happy with FIFA, or the way Blatter runs an organization with more members than the United Nations.   Continued...

 
FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures during a joint news conference with Ofer Eini (not pictured), chairman of the Israel Football Association, in Jerusalem May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Awad