Fifa presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan was expected in Harare last night to meet Zifa president Cuthbert Dube to canvass for support ahead of the world football governing body elections slated for May 29 in Zurich, Switzerland.
BY WELLINGTON TONI/WORLDFOOTBALLINSIDER
Zifa spokesman Xolisani Gwesela confirmed the trip.
“He is arriving tonight (last night) and will meet the Zifa president tomorrow (today),” Gwesela said.
Bin Al Hussein is also expected to meet the Sport, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa, his deputy Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga and senior government officials.
He is bidding to oust Sepp Blatter as leader of the world soccer governing body, but faces another challenge from Dutch Football Association boss Michael van Praag and former World Football of the Year Luis Figo.
Last week, Prince Ali criticised Fifa’s decision to blow $27 million on Fifa movie United Passions at the expense of developing football worldwide as one of many examples of “mismanagement”.
The 2014 film, featuring Gérard Depardieu as Jules Rimet and Tim Roth as the Swiss, was seen by few people. Fifa invested nearly $25m in what was essentially a Blatter vanity project, a sum close to the federation’s annual budget for its Goal programme to pay for football projects in poorer nations.
“It was not run by the executive committee. Blatter did to apologise, but that’s an issue of mismanagement. That’s just a simple example,” he said, insisting that the investment in the film could have helped meet the needs of some of Fifa’s 209 member associations.
“Development is crucial, but I think the approach to it is incorrect.
“I cannot imagine that an organisation with the wealth that it has and budget that it has does not guarantee that every single national association has the basics of having pitches and kits,” Prince Ali said, adding that he would install regional Fifa staff to determine such needs and help implement projects.
He also slated the 79-year-old for coming up with the idea to allocate Russia 2018 World Cup slots to the six confederations at a Fifa ExCo meeting on May 30, the day after the Fifa presidential election. Prince Ali said there was nothing he had ever done in football where I have made a promise that I have not delivered on.
“I am not going to play that game of making promises that you cannot deliver. We have to be responsible and mature. I am very, very worried that candidates can use that for political maneuvering without having a real, proper, healthy studied debate. Honestly, we cannot afford to make mistakes that have happened in the past.
“We are already suffering right now from it . . . from decisions such as having a double bid for World Cups. This is again emblematic of a crisis in leadership.”
Prince Ali will next month publish his detailed manifesto, building on his vision document launched in January. It follows two months of globetrotting, meeting football’s stakeholders. The manifesto will partly be based around their feedback.
Declining to put a figure on how many heads of football federations he had met over the past two months, he said only that he was “in dialogue with all national associations around the world”.
Asked what kind of feedback they had given him, Prince Ali said: “I believe people want a change. They want to bring back the reputation of Fifa, they want dignity, they want respect.
“There are so many people across the board who are doing so much for football because they love it like myself, who feel they are being a little bit dragged down by the simple reputation of Fifa right now,” he was recently quoted as saying.
Underlining the importance of the election, Prince Ali claimed that he was receiving significant support criss-crossing the globe.
“We can’t be complacent. There is a real need for change right now. There is no opportunity to be ambivalent towards Fifa,” he said. “Yes I am very confident. I am determined to win this election because we do need that change, the change of leadership is very, very important as a symbol for all stakeholders.”
While Prince Ali, van Praag and Figo have published their manifestos, Blatter has insisted he doesn’t need one, insisting that his 17 years at the helm of world football was the record voters should judge him on.
Fifa member federations which elect the president in a secret ballot have also shown little desire to remove Blatter as they receive increasing shares of billion-dollar annual income from commercial deals tied to the world’s most-watched sports event.
Prince Ali has led Jordan’s football federation since 1999 and the following year founded the West Asian Football Federation. At Fifa, he led the successful campaign to lift a ban on female Islamic players wearing headscarves in its competitions.
It is reported that Prince Ali’s work in international sport, focusing on youth and women’s football, follow a tradition of Jordan’s royal family. He is the son of the late King Hussein and the late Queen Alia, who died in a helicopter crash in 1977.
His sister, Princess Haya, stepped down last December as an International Olympic Committee member after eight years as president of equestrian’s governing body, and their half-brother Prince Faisal remains an IOC member. Educated at schools in England and the United States, Prince Ali graduated from Salisbury School in Connecticut. He attended the elite Sandhurst military academy in England before joining his country’s armed forces.
He is married to Rym Brahimi, a former CNN journalist from Algeria, whose father Lakhdar Brahimi has served as a United Nations envoy to Syria during the current conflict. In an interview with the Associated Press on his first official day as a Fifa board member in 2011, Prince Ali lamented Fifa’s focus on internal politics.
“I didn’t play a part in and I don’t want to play a part in it in the future,” he said, days after Blatter’s last election rival, Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, was implicated in a bribery scandal.
Fifa election rules in the first-round ballot require two-thirds of the votes of present and eligible member federations for victory. A simple majority of valid votes is needed in subsequent rounds.