Out of his comfort zone, and being quizzed on football politics at Wembley Stadium rather than playing there, Luis Figo made his pitch to run the world game.
Despite little experience of FIFA, beyond playing in World Cups and winning its 2001 player of the year award, Figo believes he is equipped to clean up soccer’s scandal-scarred governing body.
“FIFA deserves something different,” Figo said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Something has to change with the image right now of the organisation.”
Press the former Portugal winger, though, to go beyond generalisations to explain why Sepp Blatter’s 17-year reign should end and he is more guarded.
In the four-candidate vote in May, the 78-year-old Blatter is seeking a fifth four-year term after reversing his previous decision to step aside in May.
“Mr. Blatter has done in all these years very positive things to football,” Figo said in an executive box overlooking the pitch at England’s national stadium. “But right now I think the organisation needs a change, needs a new era and ... this is why I am presenting for the presidency of FIFA with my manifesto.”
The headline from the manifesto: a potentially radical overhaul of the World Cup. The current 32-team tournament could be increased to 40 teams or even two 24-team competitions simultaneously on two continents followed by a knockout phase in one nation.
That would ensure participation of 48 of the 209 members, making a President Figo more appealing to nations who do not qualify regularly for the quadrennial extravaganza.
“Of course I will need votes to make my proposal effective,” Figo said. “I want to open a debate in the congress because ... each confederation wants more spots in the World Cup.”