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Prince Ali launches FIFA presidential bid

By AP - Jan 06,2015 - Last updated at Jan 06,2015

GENEVA — FIFA Vice President HRH Prince Ali will stand for election in a bid to oust Sepp Blatter as leader of football’s scandal-hit world governing body.

The 39-year-old Prince Ali declared his intention Tuesday to run as a candidate in the FIFA presidential election on May 29 in Zurich, where Blatter has pledged to seek a fifth mandate at age 79.

“This was not an easy decision,” the prince said in a single-page statement in which he pledged to run a positive campaign and did not specifically mention Blatter. “It came after careful consideration and many discussions with respected FIFA colleagues over the last few months.”

“The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change,” said Prince Ali, who has been encouraged to run by European football governing body UEFA and its president, Michel Platini.

During Blatter’s 17-year leadership, FIFA has been rocked by bribery allegations in presidential and World Cup hosting elections, kickbacks paid to senior officials and World Cup ticket scams.

FIFA’s image sank further last month when ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia resigned with a parting shot at Blatter’s leadership style and the organisation’s seeming unwillingness to reform itself.

Prince Ali said in his statement Tuesday that “it is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport”.

“The world’s game deserves a world-class governing body — an international federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance,” said Prince Ali, who joined FIFA’s executive committee on the day of Blatter’s most recent
re-election in June 2011.

Blatter has survived by avoiding personal scandal and deft political mastery of an often secretive organisation he joined in 1975. The veteran Swiss official has said his mission to lead world football is unfinished.

FIFA member federations — which elect the president in a secret ballot — have also shown little desire to remove Blatter as they receive increasing shares of billion-dollar annual income from commercial deals tied to the world’s most-watched sports event.

Prince Ali did not specify which five of FIFA’s 209 members will nominate him for the presidency, as required before a January 29 deadline. He is expected to travel to Australia for the Asian Cup, which kicks off Friday, and an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) congress in Melbourne.

While he is likely to get support from much of Europe, he is far from certain to get a majority of support from the Asian confederation, which is led by Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain.

The AFC did not immediately reply to calls or e-mails seeking comment on Prince Ali’s candidacy.

AFC President Sheikh Salman pledged his support for Blatter at the confederation’s 60th anniversary celebrations at Manila in November, confirming earlier support at the AFC congress in June.

“It was a unanimous decision,” Salman said at the time. “After making the decision, we have to support it. We never go back on our words and commitments, that’s how we are.”

Prince Ali has led Jordan’s football federation since 1999 and the following year founded the West Asian Football Federation.

At FIFA, he led the successful campaign to lift a ban on female Islamic players wearing headscarves in its competitions.

Prince Ali’s work in international sport, focusing on youth and women’s football, follows a tradition of Jordan’s Royal family. He is the son of King Hussein and Queen Alia.

His sister, Princess Haya, stepped down last month as an International Olympic Committee member after eight years as president of equestrian’s governing body, and his brother Prince Feisal remains an IOC member.

Educated at schools in England and the United States, Prince Ali graduated from Salisbury School in Connecticut. He attended the elite Sandhurst military academy in England before joining the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army.

He is married to Princess Rym, a former CNN journalist from Algeria, whose father Lakhdar Brahimi has served as a United Nations envoy.

In an interview with The Associated Press on his first official day as a FIFA board member in 2011, Prince Ali lamented FIFA’s focus on internal politics.

“I didn’t play a part in and I don’t want to play a part in it in the future,” he said, days after Blatter’s last election rival, Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar, was implicated in a bribery scandal.

Now, Prince Ali has committed to seeking votes against a battle-hardened incumbent and a possible third candidate, Jerome Champagne of France, a former FIFA staffer and longtime ally of Blatter.

FIFA election rules in the first-round ballot require two-thirds of the votes of present and eligible member federations for victory. A simple majority of valid votes is needed in subsequent rounds.

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