Prince Ali: Blatter playing politics with FIFA WCup slots
Mar. 22, 2015
ZURICH (AP) — FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali bin al-Hussein claims incumbent Sepp Blatter is playing politics with a key World Cup decision.
FIFA's executive committee will give each continent its 2018 World Cup qualifying slots at a special session on May 30 — the day after the election where Blatter seeks a fifth presidential term.
FIFA vice president Prince Ali told The Associated Press he believes the timing, steered by Blatter, links an issue based on football merit to election promises.
"It is emblematic of what is wrong with FIFA right now," the Jordanian prince told The Associated Press in an interview. "The timing of it is completely contradictory to (Blatter's) promise to not interfere in the election."
Prince Ali plans to publish his campaign manifesto early next month. He said he would end FIFA's policy of paying World Cup bonuses to the 209 member federations months before they elect their president.
The payments — worth $1.05 million each in 2014, doubling members' $1 million grant spread over four years — "oftentimes looks like" election inducements, said the prince.
"There has to be a proper plan so that they can prepare and base their programs on what (money) they know they are guaranteed," Prince Ali said. "That way you also give dignity back to your national associations."
Development help for poorer members will be central to his campaign, with pledges to create more artificial turf pitches and a database of coaches able to work on FIFA scholarships anywhere in the world.
During Prince Ali's 16-year leadership of the Jordan Football Association, the national team went further in World Cup qualifying than ever before. Jordan lost an intercontinental playoff against Uruguay for the final place in the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
On Friday, FIFA's ruling committee decided that an extra meeting in May will decide how to distribute 31 qualifying slots for the 2018 lineup in Russia, which enters automatically.
Since Blatter was re-elected in June 2011, he has encouraged confederations to pitch for more guaranteed places.
Those calls have been viewed as a challenge to the 13-team World Cup quota for UEFA, which is supporting all three of Blatter's election rivals: Prince Ali, Michael van Praag of the Netherlands and Luis Figo of Portugal.
"We should make decisions for the best interests of football and at the best time — and not have it based on politics," Prince Ali told the AP in Zurich.
Though Blatter is strongly favored to extend his 17-year reign leading football's governing body, Prince Ali insisted the 79-year-old Swiss can be beaten.
"Yes, of course, I think if national associations follow their hearts," the prince said. "They are smart, they know what needs to be done. If they don't feel intimidated, if they feel that they have their own choice, I think that this definitely can be won."