The announcement of the Swiss criminal investigation into FIFA president Joseph "Sepp" Blatter brought renewed calls for his resignation. Regardless, of Feb. 26, if not sooner, FIFA will have a new president, and the favorite to succeed Blatter is now fighting for his reputation too.
The Swiss Attorney General’s office claims Blatter in 2011 made an illicit 2 million swiss franc ($2 million) to Michel Platini, the former three-time European player of the year who has been expected to take over FIFA in the post-Blatter era. While Blatter’s attorney issued a statement to protest the soccer head’s innocence, Platini said the payment is related to work he “carried out under a contract with FIFA.”
The revelation could create an opening for other candidates in the race to succeed Blatter. Here's who's in the running, officially and otherwise:
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein
The only candidate to run against Blatter at the last elections, Ali surprised observers by polling 70 of the 209 votes to push Blatter into a second round before withdrawing his bid. A brother to the Jordanian king, Ali has since fallen out with Platini, who supported him in his last run. This time around, Ali is has the support of his sister Princess Haya, a wife of the ruler of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and public relations firms based in the U.S. and U.K.
Scion of the Hyundai dynasty, the South Korean lawmaker’s future in soccer appeared to have run its course when he lost his powerful position as one of FIFA’s vice presidents to Prince Ali in 2011. After years in the wildnerness, Chung stormed back into the picture with stinging rebukes against Blatter, Platini and Asian soccer’s regional body as he announced his intention to run for FIFA president. A potential stumbling block to Chung, a 17-year veteran of FIFA’s embattled executive committee, is a possible investigation into misconduct over cash he donated to national soccer federations.
As FIFA’s senior vice president, Issa Hayatou, a Cameroonian who’s led African soccer since 1998, would replace Blatter if the FIFA president doesn't finish his term. Hayatou, who launched a failed attempt to unseat Blatter in 2002, has since been a loyal ally of the embattled FIFA boss. Hayatou, who hasn’t said he would make a challenge to lead FIFA, was caught in a scandal related to suspected bribes paid by FIFA’s collapsed marketing partner in 2000. He was reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee, but FIFA didn’t take any action.
A former political prisoner at the same prison that held Nelson Mandela, South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale has spent months considering whether to make a run. Sexwale was promoted by Blatter to participate in an anti-discrimination task force and was then picked by the FIFA president for a mission to improve relations between the soccer federations of Israel and Palestine.
The Brazilian superstar was one of the first to announce that he wanted to succeed Blatter. Without a strong political base, Zico’s chances may be limited. He’s already spoken about the difficulty in getting the five nominations needed from national federations to formally enter the vote.