Prince Ali of Jordan announces bid for FIFA president

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Baku, September 10, AZERTAC

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan is running for FIFA president, saying Wednesday he will fight ''deep-seated corruption and political deal-making'' and make soccer's scandal-scarred governing body more transparent, according to AP.

The 39-year-old royal made his announcement at a carefully staged event, speaking to about 300 invited guests, including young Jordanians and foreign diplomats, in a Roman amphitheater in the kingdom's capital of Amman. School-age soccer players in uniforms flanked the prince as he declared his candidacy in Arabic, then laid out his agenda in English.

The prince said if elected, he would shift some decision-making powers from FIFA headquarters in Zurich to national football associations. He promised to invest more in soccer development, make sure each member association has a dedicated national stadium within the next four years, do more for women's soccer and tackle the ''plague of match-fixing.''

The prince ran in the previous FIFA election in May, denying long-time incumbent Sepp Blatter a majority in the first round of voting. He stepped aside before the second round. Four days later, Blatter announced his plans to quit as separate U.S. and Swiss criminal investigations into soccer corruption escalated.

Prince Ali appeared to suggest that Platini, his former ally, lacked courage and failed to fully support him in the FIFA election loss to Blatter in May.

''I was the only person who dared to challenge Mr. Blatter for the presidency of FIFA,'' the prince said. ''And I had the courage to fight for change when others were afraid. '' ''I conceded that election. Not because I was not the best candidate, but because others were using me to make room for themselves. They didn't have the guts to run, but I did.'' ''Let me be clear,'' Prince Ali said of his renewed candidacy, ''I want to finish what we started.''

Earlier this week, the prince said Platini, a former French soccer great, is the wrong person for the job, given that Platini helped Blatter first get elected in 1998. The FIFA election will be held in February. Prince Ali and other candidates face an Oct. 26 deadline to gain the five required nominations from federations to be able to compete. The prince said Wednesday that reforming FIFA will be a difficult task.

''It is only through new leadership that FIFA can change,'' he said. ''I do not believe that FIFA can give this sport back to the people of the world, without new leadership, untainted by the practices of the past.

''We must overcome deep-seated corruption and political deal-making,'' Prince Ali said. ''FIFA will not be run as the personal fiefdom of an all-powerful clique.''

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