ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Zico believes that the rules for electing the head of soccer’s governing body are unfair, outdated and subject voting federations to outside pressure.
The Brazilian, who played at three World Cups and is regarded as one of the finest footballers ever to have graced the sport, was also disappointed that the current generation of players were afraid to speak their minds on important soccer issues.
Speaking to Reuters on a tram taking him to FIFA headquarters to meet president Sepp Blatter, Zico said it was wrong that candidates had to have written backing from five national football associations.
He said that the rules led to national FAs being subjected to pressure from the continental confederations who often wanted their members to vote as a block.
“I knew about this and the difficulties other candidates went through but you always have to try in life,” he said during a 20-minute journey on the number six.
”I have been involved in football for 45 years and there are other professionals like myself who have missed out on being candidates because of this five association rule.
”The (continental) confederations stick their noses in and put pressure on the national FAs who don’t have the independence to make their choices.”
Asked if he sensed that national FAs feared reprisals for backing a candidate, he said: “I have had similar thoughts. The FAs should have their freedom and independence.”
Zico, who has said from the outset that he would struggle to get sufficient backing, was also baffled as to why the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) had decided to back Frenchman Michel Platini as their candidate.
Zico is one of a number of candidates who have put themselves forward to replace Blatter, who announced shortly after being re-elected in May that he would lay down his mandate on Feb. 26.
World soccer’s governing body was thrown into turmoil in May when 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including several from FIFA, were indicted in the United States on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Candidates must submit their bids four months before the election, together with the backing of five FAs.
Since ending his playing career with Japan’s Kashima Antlers in 1994, Zico has coached the national sides of Japan and Iraq, as well as club sides in Turkey, Greece, Russia, Uzbekistan and Qatar. He is currently in charge of Indian Super League side FC Goa.
He repeated his proposal that the players, coaches, supporters and the media should vote in the FIFA presidential election.
“The election in its current form is completely outdated; the whole world of football needs to take part,” he said.
“When we vote for the Player of the Year, the coaches, players, captains, the media and fans take part so why not do this for president (of FIFA). At the moment, there is no debate and the elections are increasingly lacking in legitimacy.”
Even as a player, Zico was often an outspoken critic of soccer officials, something he thinks contemporary players would not dare to do.
“I would love players to speak up, but a top player is involved in so many things, so many contracts that the lad can’t open his mouth,” he said.
”I’ve always had the independence to say what I think, I feel, I never worried about my image and nobody ever told me what to say,” he added.
“I took part in trade unions, on committees in Brazil, I was Minister of Sport in Brazil, on World Cup committees. I’ve had always my freedom of expression.”
He added: “I could be more comfortable and relaxed in Japan after doing a great job there, but I like challenges, and they keep coming up.”
Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Toby Davis