In Brief

Figo: Fifa is a 'dictatorship' and election 'shames' football

Portuguese legend quits race against Blatter as he slams 'devils who are compared to Jesus'

150522-figo.jpg

And then there were two. On a day of high, not to mention depressing, drama, Luis Figo and Michael van Praag both withdrew from the Fifa presidential race leaving just Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein to stand against incumbent Sepp Blatter.

The election will be held next Friday but as The Guardian reports the 79-year-old Blatter "is widely expected to secure victory in the vote of 209 national associations". This despite the fact that Blatter, who is standing for a fifth term, had earlier promised to step down in 2015 after years of controversy that have tarnished the name and reputation of Fifa.

Figo, like so many who have dared challenge Blatter over the years, was initially confident of usurping the Swiss who has presided over the most turbulent period in the organisation's history, what with allegations of vote-rigging and widespread corruption.

Figo was one of the best players of his generation, capped 127 times by Portugal and an influential midfielder for Barcelona and Real Madrid. Few people ever got the better of him on the football pitch, but things are different in the Fifa boardroom and slowly over time he has come to realise that Blatter operates what he described as a "dictatorship".

Explaining his reasons for withdrawing from the race he said: "This process is a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man – something I refuse to go along with. That is why, after a personal reflection and sharing views with two other candidates in this process, I believe that what is going to happen on May 29 in Zurich is not a normal electoral act."

A clearly disillusioned Figo then described what he had witnessed at recent meetings of the continental confederations, behaviour that "should shame anyone who desires soccer to be free, clean and democratic".

Figo explained how he had "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." According to the Guardian Figo was referencing the Concacaf congress when President Blatter was compared to Jesus, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

Figo had wanted to engage Blatter in a public debate about the future of the game, as had Dutch FA president Michael van Praag, but Blatter prefers not to break cover. The Guardian points out that the aging president has "refused to publish a manifesto or debate his scandal-hit presidency" for fear it would threaten his chances of being re-elected.

It's all been too much for Figo who, like so many before him, has been bludgeoned into submission by Blatter. "For my part, I will abide by the ideas I leave written and have circulated, I am firm in my desire to take an active part in the regeneration of Fifa and I will be available for it whenever it is proven to me that we are not living under a dictatorship," he said.

"I do not fear the ballot box, but I will not go along with nor will I give my consent to a process which will end on May 29 and from which soccer will not emerge the winner."

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