Surprise FIFA presidential candidate Luis Figo is already wooing votes, particularly with one rather absurd proposal for future World Cups. The Portuguese officially launched his campaign at Wembley on Thursday, but it was clear he was looking for support outside of Europe.
Rather than go with “I am not Sepp Blatter” as a slogan, which would have done just fine, Figo chose “For Football”. Well, yeah. Perhaps it underlines how far FIFA’s reputation has tumbled that a candidate to become the head of world soccer’s governing body feels like he has to very clearly state that he is “For Football”. As opposed to the current regime, who are probably “For Nice Hotels”, “For Business Class” and “For Secrecy”.
What really grabbed the headlines, though, was Figo’s proposal to expand the size of the World Cup. Because the current 32-team arrangement’s not already as bloated as a drunk college student after a late-night visit to Jack in the Box.
“I believe we should consider proposals to expand the competition to a 40 or even 48 team World Cup,” said Figo, who has the backing of David Beckham. But then, so did England’s 2018 bid.
Expansion would solve the controversy about a winter or summer Qatar World Cup – because a 48-team tournament would take, like half the year. It’d start in August and end in December.
While an obviously stupid idea, logistics, host country expense and quality-wise, it’s a shrewd scheme for Figo to float, politically. The president is elected after a vote from FIFA’s 209 member associations. In this one-member one-vote world, a vote from Tonga carries as much weight as one from Germany.
So dangling the World Cup dream, like some gold-plated carrot, in front of smaller nations who otherwise wouldn’t have a hope of qualifying could win him a few more votes. Michel Platini, after all, cemented his powerbase at UEFA by planning to expand the European Championships and hold it in multiple countries.
“Both these options are feasible with an extra three to four days of tournament play. If this expansion were to take place I believe that additional teams should come from non-European nations,” Figo said – smartly appealing to the sense around the world that Europe, with its big teams and TV money, gets favored by FIFA with an excessive number of qualifying places.
Figo’s also proposing sin-bins for unsporting behavior, getting rid of the whole confusing “active or passive” offside thing, and stopping players being punished with the hat-trick of a penalty, a red card and a suspension if they commit professional fouls inside the box.
“I’m not the kind of man that sits aside and refuses to act. I want a new style of leadership of Fifa that can restore transparency, co-operation and solidarity,” said Figo, as grown men in the audience wept with emotion, then rose up as one to chant “Figo! Figo! Figo!”
He continued: “Thanks to my football experience I am lucky to be an independent man. I don’t owe anything to anybody, and this means I can serve as president in the interests of football. Football runs through my veins, and l am ready to bring real changes to Fifa.”
Blatter’s re-election will take place on May 29.