Netherlands’ Michael van Praag is going to run against “President of Life” Blatter

by Miriti Murungi and Richard Farley

FIFA “President for Life” Sepp Blatter is about to have some more competition from Europe, despite saying that UEFA doesn’t “have the courage” to challenge him. Say what you will, but the man’s arrogance is impressive.

The latest contestant to announce a run for Blatter’s throne is Michael van Praag, president of the Dutch football federation (KNVB). Until now, the list of candidates the honor of petting a bald cat in Blatter’s chair include Frenchman Jerome Champagne (reasonable), former player David Ginola (unreasonable), Mino Raiola — Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli’s agent (unreasonable) — and Jordanian FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein (reasonable).

Keeping things on our newly patented unreasonable-reasonable spectrum, van Praag lands firmly near the latter, making him Blatter’s most-serious challenger. He claims to be coming to the table with the required letters of support from five national federations, the number needed to gain a nomination.

“It is well known that I am very worried about FIFA,” van Praag said, in a statement on the Dutch federation’s website. “It is high time that [FIFA] is fully normalized … I hoped that there would be a credible opponent (to Blatter), but simply has not happened. You must not only use words but also act decisively and take personal responsibility. Therefore, I am now candidate.”

Beyond van Praag’s seemingly decent candidacy, this would put Sepp Blatter in a difficult situation, if he didn’t live a life totally immune to difficult situations. Initially, he said he wouldn’t run for a fifth term (he’s been in office once 1998). Then he decided to run. He said that decision was based on the lack of decent candidates, but what do you know? A decent candidate has emerged.

Blatter would win a type of high ground if he did pull out now. I’ve been in office a long time, I didn’t really want to run, so … go ahead, Mikey. It’s all yours. But does anybody believe that’s going to happen? Of course not.

Blatter still has ridiculous support beyond Europe, part of the reason he felt so safe calling UEFA out. But over the next four months, van Praag’s going to get a chance to make his case. Perhaps that won’t get Blatter out of office, but it will highlight the hypocrisy of a man who says he didn’t want to run.