Jan 20, 2014, 8:50 AM EDT
Former FIFA deputy secretary general Jérôme Champagne announced on Monday his intention to run for presidency of the organization. The 55 year old former diplomat worked at FIFA from 1999 – 2010 and was a close advisor of current president Sepp Blatter, running his election campaign in 2002.
Now it’s likely Champagne will run directly against Blatter in next year’s elections. The current FIFA president, who has been at the helm since 1998, has yet to decide whether he will run for a fifth term. Sources suggest, however, that the 77 year old will try for another term. UEFA President Michel Platini, 58, could also stand for the presidency.
Champagne welcomes debate with other candidates, whether they be Blatter, Platini, or those unannounced as of yet. The Frenchman said, “Football is so important for so many millions, let us show the world that we are open and democratic and transparent. The election next year is so important it will define football for the next 15 or 20 years so let us have a deep, meaningful discussion.”
He’s already received the backing of one of the sport’s greatest heroes, the legendary Brazilian Pelé. Speaking via a videotaped message at the press conference announcing Champagne’s bid, Pelé said: “I cannot stay away from a debate which is so important for the future of football and thus, I support Jerome Champagne and his vision. Football today enjoys a lot of success but also faces many problems requiring a strong and democratic FIFA with a vision in favour of everyone, and a governance which is both universal and modern.”
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