Elias Figueroa

(WFI) The ChangeFIFA movement today launched an appeal to FIFA’s 208 member associations to back its candidate to run for president of world football’s governing body.

INSIDER exclusively revealed last Friday that Elias Figueroa, the Chilean football legend, had been chosed as the social media-based campaign’s candidate to clean up FIFA following the scandal-hit 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid race last year.

ChangeFIFA today urged FIFA members to “live by their own credo of Fair Play”. They pointed to the governing body’s Fair Play Code and emphasised the need for competition in the race for the FIFA presidency.

Unless Figueroa is nominated by a national federation, FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s only opponent in the elections on June 1 will be Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam. The deadline for nominations for the FIFA presidency is Friday.

In a statement today, the group said Figueroa should be nominated “so that every member of the football family with a positive future vision has a fair chance to offer it before the football community”.

ChangeFIFA stepped up its Twitter and Facebook campaign in attempts to win the support of a federation disenchanted with FIFA. Figueroa would need to raise about $500,000 of funds for two months campaigning.

“208 national associations, is there one brave enough to stand for genuine change?,” ChangeFIFA tweeted.

“Does your FA have a spine? If it does, we can start something special.”

Oliver Fowler, the Barcelona-based British journalist who founded ChangeFIFA, underlined Figueroa’s credentials as a viable candidate to challenge Blatter, who has occupied FIFA’s top job for 13 years.

Figueroa, who played in three World Cups and was South American Footballer of the Year in 1974, 1975 and 1976, is considered to be one of the greatest ever defenders.

“No one can possibly doubt his passion or love for the game. Being a man of the highest integrity with near matchless football credentials, and possessing positive ideas to reform the game and its’ governance, how can anyone at FIFA suggest that Mr. Figueroa does not have a right to run for president and put forward a positive agenda for change,” Fowler said in a statement.

ChangeFIFA co-director David Larkin said that if FIFA members denied one of their own legendary players the right to stand for president, “it will only prove to show that FIFA has become an exclusive and undemocratic club of an elite few who will stop at nothing to prevent their loss of privilege and power”.

On Friday, Figueroa told Brazil’s leading sports newspaper, Lance: “My idea, which is also theirs, is to change some things in football, make it better. I still cannot give details, but if the nomination is confirmed we will reveal.”

Blatter and Bin Hammam are set to ramp up their campaigns in the coming days.

Last week, Blatter told the UEFA Congress in Paris that he would only serve one more four-year term if re-elected this summer. Bin Hammam spent time canvassing for votes among the 53 member associations of UEFA.

A day after the congress where he spoke with Blatter and attended several social events with the Swiss, the Qatari launched an attack on the president’s leadership in a blog post.

The 61-year-old wrote that his trip to Paris had given him “a growing sense that more and more people within the game are eager to see change in FIFA.

“Unfortunately, from what I can see, people have been judging the entire organisation by the unpopularity of its president. Hopefully we will be able to change that and turn FIFA into an organisation we can all be proud of once again.”

Bin Hammam was in Vietnam over the weekend for a meeting of the countries that receive assistance from the Asian Football Confederation through the Aid 27 programme.

INSIDER understands Bin Hammam is now back in Doha and spending the next few days finalising preparations for the coming weeks of his campaign to oust Blatter.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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