Football agent Mino Raiola has withdrawn from the race for the Fifa presidency, saying he is backing Dutch football association chief Michael van Praag for the job.
‘It is not about me, it is about having a good candidate and now we have one,’ Raiola told Dutch broadcaster Nos.
Van Praag, a strong critic of current incumbent Sepp Blatter, announced his candidacy on Monday evening.
According to the Volkskrant, Van Praag’s last-minute candidacy shows the growing gap between Fifa and UEFA. ‘Should Blatter win the election on May 29 a split might be on the cards. That would put Fifa on the spot as the best players and the best competitions are concentrated in Europe,’ the paper writes.
The Volkskrant doesn’t rate Van Praag’s chances of success very highly. ‘It doesn’t look as if Van Praag will stand a chance against Blatter who, through extensive programmes, “bought” a lot of support, especially in Africa and South and Central America, and who turned Fifa into a money-making machine,’ the paper says.
‘The question is if Van Praag, who is considered to be charming but somewhat arrogant with it, will be able to win support outside of Europe. Probably not. Van Praag once described the atmosphere at Fifa meetings: “When a proposal from Europe is rejected, the rest of the world gives it a standing ovation”. There is a lot of envy towards Europe,’ the Volkskrant concludes.
The Telegraaf quotes an enthusiastic Ruud Gullit who, with Van Praag, lobbied to get the 2018 World Cup to the Netherlands. ‘Michael would make an ideal chairman for any football association and certainly for FIFA (…). His candidacy is making things much more interesting: at least people have a real choice now. It’s all a matter of putting together a good campaign because that is what Blatter will do. And he knows how like no other.’
The AD writes that the decision to take on Blatter was made as early as January ‘when it became clear the candidates for the presidency, of which Jérôme Champagne was the most important, were struggling to obtain the requisite five association nominations and UEFA president Michel Platini once again refused to take up the gauntlet.’
‘It’s unclear what Van Praag’s chances are. (..) But the European football associations want to put forward at least one strong candidate, one that will take on Blatter and start a debate about his policy. Van Praag is that candidate. They consider that debate to be at least as important as the candidacy itself,’ AD writes.
Football magazine Voetbal International writes that ‘a simple head count soon shows Van Praag is without a hope’. ‘In the normal course of things Blatter’s opponents are crushed but the controversial events surrounding FIFA and the FBI’s probings into the election of the next World Cup venues may change the playing field. (..)
‘Van Praag’s symbolic candidacy may have a surprising outcome,’ VI says. ‘One thing is certain: Van Praag and the KNVB are doing the right thing. It’s a public challenge and that’s more than the other European associations and their chairpersons seem to be capable of.’
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