ZURICH (Reuters) – Former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid launched his campaign to be president of crisis-hit FIFA on Sunday with an attack on the two Arab royals who are the frontrunners to replace the outgoing Sepp Blatter.
Nakhid, who played club football in the Swiss league and North America’s Major League Soccer, said he had successfully secured the five nominations from national associations needed to become a candidate and had submitted his paperwork to FIFA’s election committee.
Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has also put in his nomination and the president of Asian soccer, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, is also expected to do so before the October 26 deadline for the vote four months later.
Bookmakers have made the two Arab royals the early favourites but Nakhid, who is viewed as an outsider, said neither would be good solutions for the troubled organisation which has been hit by a series of corruption scandals.
“We don’t represent big money from the Gulf nor do we represent the luxury of royalty. What we do represent is someone who can stake the claim for a better balance in the global game,” Nakhid told Reuters on Sunday.
“You look at Prince Ali, someone who has been head of his own association since he was 23, 16 years. Now he wants to come and talk about reform? He has been there 16 years by decree. What can he tell us about reform? Has he had a challenger in those 16 years or has been there as a Prince? Come on.”
Nakhid, who runs a football academy in Lebanon, added that he did not think Prince Alia would be good for the game and he lacked the charisma needed to lead.
The 51-year-old played 35 times for Trinidad and Tobago between 1992 and 2005.
But the Caribbean nation is best known in FIFA politics because of former FIFA vice-president and regional leader Jack Warner, who was last month banned from the game for life by FIFA’s Ethics Committee after a series of corruption allegations against him.
Nakhid says he was a long-time opponent of Warner, who has denied any wrongdoing.
“Believe me, Jack Warner is not worried about being banned from football. His only worry would have been not having access to the trough. He would not have missed football for a day”.
Warner’s disgrace formed part of the crisis that has hit FIFA following the indictment by U.S. authorities on May 27 of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives.
The U.S. and Swiss authorities are running corruption investigations that include examining the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Earlier this month, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, head of European governing body UEFA and also a candidate for the FIFA leadership, were both suspended for 90 days by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. Both men deny any wrongdoing. Blatter, 18 years in office, is to hand over power to a successor to be elected at a special congress in February.
Nakhid said FIFA executive committee member Sheikh Salman, who is closely allied with Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in international sports politics, is part of the FIFA establishment.
“He has been part of that circle no matter what is said. He has been around in Asia and if you know a bit about Asian football and the acrimonious battles that were waged and then you know it is going to be hard to split these guys from anything that has gone on,” he said.
“I think they need to be scrutinised as everyone should be, then hopefully we can come up with someone who is good for football.”
Nakhid, who wants a public debate between all candidates, says he has won support in the Caribbean and from other confederations but said his supporters had asked him not make their support public at this stage.
“This is one of the things we want to address. You can see a legacy of recriminations has been left. These federations feel that for them to step out of the box, they are going to be recriminated against but in due time hopefully we can change those things as well,” he said.
(By Simon Evans, Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Angus MacSwan)