Portugal legend Luis Figo announces intention to stand for Fifa presidency

Former Portuguese footballer Luis Figo (right) and wife, Swedish model Helen Svedin, arriving at the casino of Estoril for the Quinas de Ouro gala, in Estoril, Portugal, on Jan 14, 2015.  -- PHOTO: EPA
Former Portuguese footballer Luis Figo (right) and wife, Swedish model Helen Svedin, arriving at the casino of Estoril for the Quinas de Ouro gala, in Estoril, Portugal, on Jan 14, 2015.  -- PHOTO: EPA

Former Portuguese footballer Luis Figo has announced his intention to challenge incumbent Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, the 42-year-old said he wanted to end Blatter's 17-year reign at an organisation that has been riven by scandals.

He confirmed the news on his Twitter account at around 8.50pm (Singapore time) with the tweet: "I'm delighted to announce my candidacy for the FIFA Presidency. Football has given me so much during my life & I want to give something back."

"I care about football, so what I'm seeing regarding the image of Fifa - not only now but in the past years - I don't like it," he said in the CNN interview.

Figo revealed that last year's World Cup in Brazil opened his eyes to the negative image that fans held of Fifa, adding: "Change in leadership, governance, transparency and solidarity, so I think it's the moment for that."

He also cited the controversy over the host bidding process of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups - awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively - as a key factor in his decision.

With the deadline to submit nominations looming on Jan 29, the 2001 Fifa World Player of the Year said he had received the backing from five Fifa member associations, whom he did not identify.

On the massive task of dislodging Blatter, who has occupied the position since 1998 and last June U-turned on his decision to step down, Figo said: "I think no one is untouchable in this life. If you think like that you are wrong."

He is the latest candidate to throw his hat into the ring, following ex-France winger David Ginola, former French diplomat and independent candidate Jerome Champagne, Asian Football Confederation vice-president Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein and Dutch Football Association chairman Michael van Praag.

Currently on the Uefa Football Committee and working with Italian club Inter Milan in an ambassadorial role, Figo's illustrious 20-year career saw him play in the colours of Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter.

He has earned 127 caps for Portugal, and captained his country at the 2006 World Cup.

mklee@sph.com.sg