[In South America,] representative government, native functionaries, a qualified negative on their laws, with a previous security by compact for freedom of commerce, freedom of the press, habeas corpus and trial by jury, would make a good beginning. This last would be the school in which their people might begin to learn the exercise of civic duties as well as rights. For freedom of religion they are not yet prepared. The scales of bigotry have not sufficiently fallen from their eyes to accept it for themselves individually, much less to trust others with it.” — Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) to John Adams 1821. ME 15:309
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein criticised the organisation’s “culture of intimidation” and challenged incumbent Sepp Blatter to a public debate as he kick-started his campaign on Tuesday.
The Jordanian royal dismissed concerns about a lack of support from within the Asian Football Confederation, whose president, Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, has pledged his support to Blatter.
Ali, FIFA vice-president for Asia, revealed that he had received nominations from the national associations of Belarus, Malta, England, Jordan, the United States and Georgia.
But although the Jordan Football Association, of which he is president, was the only Asian federation to support him, he said he was confident of attracting support from around the world.
“Obviously there is a bit of a culture of intimidation — let me put it that way — within FIFA,” Ali told a press conference at a London hotel.
“But having said that, this is a candidacy for the whole world. I do know also that there are confederations who have their own elections coming up in the next couple of months.
“But I do believe that hopefully we will get as many votes as possible from around the world. This is a world issue and not just one of confederations.”
Pressed on the “intimidation” claim, Ali said: “I’m not going to expand very much, other than to say that in the past, if people take a principled stand, then they end up possibly being punished for it.
“That’s why obviously the vote is secret and I hope that if things are played fairly and played rightly, things will go in the appropriate way.”
– ‘Proper reform’ –
As well as 78-year-old Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term in office, Ali will also be up against former Portugal winger Luis Figo and Dutch football chief Michael van Praag in the May 29 election in Zurich.
Asked about the possibility of the three challengers to Blatter eventually uniting behind a single candidate, Ali replied: “We’ll have to wait and see. I have to have discussions with the others candidates.
“And if we are talking about transparency, I would like to see at least before the election a public debate including the incumbent so that everybody know across the world what our positions are.”
Blatter has been tarnished by allegations of corruption stemming from the 2010 vote to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Ali, 39, is building his campaign on a platform of greater honesty and transparency within FIFA and he was critical of Blatter’s attempts to reform the organisation.
“He has been the president and the president needs to be held responsible for what happens,” Ali said.
“I have a lot of respect for what he’s done in the past. However, if we talk about proper reform, I’m not confident that I’ve seen it.
“We’ve had for example Mark Pieth’s report (into reforming FIFA), which was shelved and not taken into account.
“We’ve also had promises from him that he would not run again, but obviously that is not the case. With full honesty and integrity, I think he should give a chance to others, including myself.”