Luis Figo and Michael van Praag pulled out of the race for the FIFA presidency Thursday, leaving controversial incumbent Sepp Blatter in a straight fight with Jordan's Prince Ali bin al Hussein. Former Portugal captain Figo withdrew with a bitter broadside at the contentious election campaign, which will culminate in a vote on May 29 where Blatter is widely expected to hang on to a post he has held since 1998.
"I do not fear the ballot box, but I will not go along with nor will I give my consent to a process that will end on May 29 and from which soccer will not emerge the winner," Figo wrote on his Facebook page. "My decision is made, I will not stand in what is being called an election for the FIFA presidency."Dutch FIFA presidential candidate van Praag also announced he was dropping his bid, saying he will back Prince Ali instead.
Van Praag, a former Ajax chairman, announced his candidacy in January, saying he wanted to modernise the world governing body "which has lost all credibility."
FIFA had become ridden with suspicion, conflicts of interest and allegations of nepotism and corruption, he said at the time.
Observers say Prince Ali stands the best chance to unseat Blatter because the Jordanian had a better campaign budget and contacts within FIFA, having served on its executive committee since 2011.
Figo used his Facebook announcement to also condemn what he believes are double-standards in football's global ruling bodies. "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," he wrote."The candidates were prevented from addressing federations at congresses while one of the candidates always gave speeches on his own from the rostrum. "Does anyone think it's normal that an election for one of the most relevant organizations on the planet can go ahead without a public debate?
"Does anyone think it's normal that one of the candidates doesn't even bother to present an election manifesto that can be voted on May 29? Shouldn't it be mandatory to present such a manifesto so that federation presidents know what they're voting for?"
Van Praag, 67, said Prince Ali is "the biggest candidate" to unseat Blatter. "I do believe he is the biggest candidate to mobilize enough votes to challenge Sepp Blatter," Van Praag said at a press conference in Amsterdam.
Van Praag said he decided to back Prince Ali on condition that a number of his proposals be taken up in the Jordanian royal's own proposals. This included human rights aspects for workers employed to build stadiums and limiting the mighty world federation's presidency to two terms only.The election will be held at the FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29.
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