AMMAN (AFP) – FIFA Vice-President Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan declared Tuesday he would challenge Sepp Blatter to lead football’s world governing body, vowing to end years of controversy surrounding the game.
If successful, he would be only the second FIFA chief from outside Europe, and the first ever from the Middle East.
“I am seeking the presidency of FIFA because I believe it is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport,” the 39-year-old prince said in a statement.
“The headlines should be about football, the beautiful sport, not about FIFA.”
The prince, who was elected FIFA vice-president for Asia in 2011, aims to prevent Blatter winning a fifth term in office.
Frenchman Jerome Champagne has also declared his candidacy in the May 29 election.
Prince Ali said he had been encouraged to run after consultations with senior figures in football.
“This was not an easy decision. It came after careful consideration and many discussions with respected FIFA colleagues over the last few months,” he said.
“The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change. The world game deserves a world-class governing body – an International Federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance.”
FIFA has been steeped in controversy and allegations of corruption since Russia and Qatar’s successful bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Prince Ali, the son of the late King Hussein of Jordan, had been one of the most senior FIFA officials to call for the publication in full of a report last year into the winning bids.
But FIFA’s executive voted to release only an “appropriate”, edited version of top US lawyer Michael Garcia’s report into the alleged corruption.
Blatter last month ruled out any suggestion that Qatar could lose the right to host the tournament.
“It would really need an earthquake, extremely important new elements to go back on this World Cup in Qatar,” he said.
Blatter has long been a controversial figure, and FIFA, which oversees a multi-billion dollar industry, has never been far from scandal.
The 78-year-old Swiss national succeeded scandal-plagued Brazilian Joao Havelange – the only non-European to have headed FIFA – in 1998.
FIFA and Blatter have sought, without success, to silence critics of the Qatari and Russian bids.
Prince Ali is the FIFA vice-president for Asia, head of Jordan’s Football Association and founder of the West Asian Football Federation.
A major general in Jordan’s armed forces, the prince was educated in the United States and Britain, where he attended the prestigious military academy Sandhurst.
In 2011 he became the youngest member of the FIFA executive committee at the age of 35 after rallying Arab support behind him.