If there’s one man who came out of the recent FIFA debacle with any dignity, it is Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, the President of the Jordan Football Association, who dared to confront the heady mixture of scandal, lies and deceit that seems to characterise world football’s governing body.
Prince Ali is charm personified if his appearance and performance in Manchester at Soccerex is typical of the man. And it also looks like he is going to take another stab at winning the election to become FIFA president as Sepp Blatter leaves the post. You got the feeling that most of the audience would be quite pleased about that, and not just because it would remove the controversial – and very unpopular – current incumbent of the position.
Blatter and his one-time “chosen son” Michel Platini came under less than subtle fire in Prince Ali’s interview. He spoke about the need for “forward thinkers” and that “a change of leadership was needed to make FIFA respectable again”. As for Blatter, “if he had the best interest of football at heart, he would step down”.
He also refused to accommodate the claim that people at the top were unaware of the den of corruption that FIFA had become. “Everything that happened within FIFA was known by the leadership… undoubtedly.”
Who, then, is the best man for the job – Platini? Prince Ali had met with the French football legend, and while having the utmost respect for his achievements as a player, admitted he was “not encouraged” by the discussion he had. “FIFA is in crisis mode and Michel Platini is a protégé of Sepp Blatter. We need a new start. The future has to be different from the past.”
That may mean a head of FIFA from outside its historic recruitment grounds of Europe and South America. “It is fine to have a non-European head of FIFA,” said Prince Ali. “The important thing is we have the right candidate at the right time.” He also seemed to rule out the possibility of Chung Mong-Joon as the top man.
What would Prince Ali do if he became the next head of FIFA? “Take the locks of the doors and open the windows.” He added that much time had been wasted in resolving the leadership issue. “The world is watching and we have lost a year in reforming FIFA. The brand of FIFA is extremely damaged and that is a real shame.”
The World Cup is at the root of much of the scandal surrounding FIFA, but Prince Ali hopes that both the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 competitions will go ahead. At the same time, he was in no doubt that, “any future award of a World Cup has to be to a country that has the basic human rights”.
Prince Ali, in Manchester, hinted that he might run for President in next year’s election. “Stay tuned,” he said, sitting on the royal fence. But he didn’t stay there too long because he has since confirmed he will be standing. FIFA could do far worse than to elect him.