22 May 2015

Fifa president's race down to two

5:30 am on 22 May 2015

The race for the Fifa presidency is down to two after the former Portugal forward Luis Figo pulled out of contention just hours after Dutchman Michael van Praag had also withdrawn.

His decision left Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein as the only challenger to incumbent Sepp Blatter for the FIFA election next week.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter

FIFA president Sepp Blatter Photo: Photosport

Blatter is favourite to win a fifth term as president and Figo said: "This process is anything but an election.

"This process is a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man - something I refuse to go along with."

Each of Fifa's 209 member associations have a vote in the election and Van Praag, who is president of the Dutch football federation, says he will now support Prince Ali.

The Dutchman is expected to give his reasons from withdrawing from the election at a news conference later today but Figo made his reasons clear in a statement.

"I travelled and met extraordinary people who, though they recognized the value of much that had been done, also concurred with the need for change, one that cleans up Fifa's reputation as an obscure organization that is so often viewed as a place of corruption," he said.

"But over the past few months I have not only witnessed that desire [for change], I have witnessed consecutive incidents, all over the world, that should shame anyone who desires soccer to be free, clean and democratic.

"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.

Figo added: "There has not been a single public debate about each candidate's proposals."

The latest withdrawal comes after another presidential candidate, Frenchman Jerome Champagne, a former Fifa deputy general secretary, pulled out in February.

Former Tottenham and Newcastle midfielder David Ginola, backed by a betting company, originally announced his intention to stand against Blatter in January, but withdrew two weeks later.

The vote will be held in Zurich at Fifa's annual congress and requires the winning candidate to secure a two-thirds majority in the first round of voting.

If subsequent rounds are required then a simple majority is all that is required for victory.

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