FIFA presidential hopeful Prince Ali bin Al Hussein on Saturday called world football's governing body "secretive" and expressed confidence he would oust Sepp Blatter in May.
Top Asian officials have been dismissive of the Jordanian royal’s election challenge, but Prince Ali predicted his manifesto to clean up FIFA’s tarnished image would persuade members to vote for him in the May 29 election.
“I’m not worrying about numbers at the moment,” he said. “We have a few months to go before the actual election, but I have total faith that they are decent people who will vote for the future of football. I have total confidence.”
Despite being shunned by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), whose president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa insisted there would be no backtracking on the regional body’s commitment to back Blatter’s bid for a fifth term, Prince Ali continued his call for more transparency.
“FIFA as an organisation tends to be a bit secretive,” he said, according to the Australian news agency AAP.
“But (football) is the most popular sport in the world — we should be confident and happy to be open and engaged with everyone. I don’t see a reason to be guarded.
“We have to bring the administration of the the sport into the current time that we live in. I think that change is inevitable and I’m here to work for a positive change.”
Blatter has become a deeply controversial figure following a number of damaging scandals including the furore over the bidding process for 2018 and 2022, won by Russia and Qatar respectively.
– Asian snub –
But Shaikh Salman was among several Asian powerbrokers at Friday’s AFC extraordinary congress in Melbourne who left no doubt that Prince Ali risked being marginalised.
Prince Ali, 39, a FIFA vice president and head of the West Asian Football Federation, was one of the officials who called for the publication of ethics investigator Michael Garcia’s report into allegations of corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
He renewed those calls on Saturday, but declined to say whether he would reopen the bidding process if elected.
“I believe we should be totally transparent in that respect,” he said. “I would hope this would happen before I’m elected to be honest.
“My position is that the world needs to know. We made a big deal out of having this investigation in the first place — we can’t do that and then shut the door.”
A close ally of Blatter rival and UEFA president Michel Platini, Prince Ali has vowed to restore public trust in FIFA and can count on a significant number of the European body’s 54 votes — even if he was left feeling distinctly unloved in Melbourne ahead of the start of the Asian Cup.
Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) boss Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah warned that Prince Ali risked upsetting the unity of member nations across the region, and predicted he would struggle to win “10 to 15 percent of the votes”.
“I hope Prince Ali or any other candidate will think a thousand times before making his calculation,” the powerful Kuwaiti said.