Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Luis Figo for FIFA President

This appears on

Figo for FIFA president
by rick olivares

On May 29, FIFA will conduct its elections for its new president. Incumbent Joseph Blatter, who has been at the helm of the federation since 1998, will be challenged by current FIFA Vice President Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, Dutch football association president Michael van Praag, and former Portugal star Luis Figo.

Personally, all the controversies of FIFA in recent years came under the watch of Blatter. Two decades atop FIFA is more than enough. It sure is embarrassing to see and hear him booed whenever he makes official appearances or when he hands out awards. It is time to hear a new voice.

Let’s take a look the different candidates outside the 78-year old Blatter.

FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. The 39-year old is the third son of the late King Hussein of Jordan. In the sport, he is the President of the Jordan Football Association. He also founded the West Asian Football Federation where he was able to enlist 13 countries.

Prince Ali championed the lifting of the ban of female football’s hijab and was one of those who called for the investigation and publication of alleged corruption surrounding the bids of Russia and Qatar to host the World Cup.

Michael van Praag is the current President of the Royal Dutch Football Association and the executive committee of UEFA. He was the former chairman of Ajax Amsterdam. The 68-year old Van Praag once officiated in Dutch amateur football matches before he made his fortune in electronics and became chairman of Ajax. Regarding his declaring for the presidency of FIFA, van Praag said, “I'm very worried about the deteriorating situation at FIFA. The public opinion, the trustworthiness, is very bad, and with me a lot of people in the world believe so.”

Lastly, there’s 42-year old Luis Figo who once starred for Portugal, Barcelona, and Real Madrid in an incredible 20-year career. He won the Ballon D’Or in 2000, the FIFA Player of the Year in 2001, and was named to FIFA’s list of 100 greatest living players. He currently works with Internazionale as an club ambassador and is a founder of Network90 that works with footballers. He is fluent in five languages.

In an interview with CNN, Figo bared his reasons for challenging Blatter: "I care about football, so what I'm seeing regarding the image of FIFA -- not only now but in the past years -- I don't like it. If you search FIFA on the internet you see the first word that comes out: scandal -- not positive words. It's that we have to change first and try to improve the image of FIFA. Football deserves much better than this.”

Prince Ali and Figo bring the exuberance of youth to an staid and old boy network in FIFA. Furthermore, of the four, I like Van Praag and Figo as candidates as they came up from the system and did not inherit their positions because of politics, social status, or wealth.

However, between the two, I like to believe that Figo not being encumbered by old boy politics and the bureaucracy that has tainted FIFA will be an advantage. His personal life has not been rocked by any scandal. He played very recently and is very much in touch with the current challenges that face football. The fact, that many players back up his candidacy means they believe he has the right heart, mind, temperament, and personality to handle the federation.

FIFA used to be run by organization people – the late Joao Havelange as well as Blatter have all been beset by scandal and the sport really needs a fresh breath of air. It will be a tough battle however for van Praag and Figo as the voting members of FIFA have been in place for a while now and would love for nothing more than to hold on to their positions and maintain the status quo.

Hopefully, come May 29, the people who vote will come to their senses and choose the right man with the right qualifications and not what was given to him on a silver platter.

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