Strategic pull-out possible for Blatter rivals

FIFA presidential candidates Michael van Praag and Luis Figo on Thursday left open the possibility of a strategic withdrawal to unite the vote against runaway leader Sepp Blatter.

Speaking at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) congress in Bahrain, neither rejected the option although they insisted it had not been discussed.

Van Praag, Figo and Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al Hussein are considered to be some way behind the support enjoyed by Blatter, who will be seeking a landslide win on May 29.

Van Praag and Figo sat next to each other at the five-hour congress but the Dutch FA boss said he didn’t discuss any vote strategy with the former Real Madrid galactico.

“I’m not going to discuss that through the media… if that is up for discussion okay, if we meet we can discuss it. But I’m not going to discuss it through (media),” he told AFP.

Figo gave a vague response when asked about the prospect of one or more candidates withdrawing, giving the impression that it could be under consideration.

“If I tell you the truth, I don’t know what’s going to happen. You know in this world, everything can happen and I don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

Blatter, 79, is frequently criticised outside of football’s national associations but he enjoys strong support among FIFA members, making him hot favourite for a fifth term.

Both van Praag and Figo were left frustrated in Manama when they were refused permission to address the Asian congress, unlike Blatter who gave a lengthy speech.

“It is easy to say to the congress, ‘we all back you Mr. Blatter’, but at the same time not giving the opportunity to candidates to talk, that is in my opinion not very fair,” van Praag told AFP.

“So I’m disappointed. But on the other hand I have to say it is their good right to do so.”

Figo said: “Of course this is the individual congress of a confederation but I don’t see any kind of problem to speak, to address.

“We are in a democracy so I don’t really understand why not because if you’re here, attending the conference (for) like five, six hours, giving us 10 minutes I think is not a big deal.”

Blatter has been assured of strong support in both Africa and Asia, the two biggest confederations, which would put him much of the way towards victory and a fifth term.

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