(ATR) Dutch FA chief Michael Van Praag is to challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.
The 67-year-old says he has "at least" five nominations from FIFA’s 209 member federations to become an official candidate after the Jan. 29 deadline for submissions.
His declaration came during a meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee in Nyon on Monday. The Dutch FA, known as the KNVB, published a statement on its website.
"KNVB president Michael van Praag has announced his candidacy to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA. Tomorrow, his official candidacy letter, accompanied by the required five declarations of support from national associations supporting Mr. Van Praag’s candidacy, will be sent to FIFA headquarters in Zurich," said the statement.
"It’s widely known that I’m very worried about FIFA," Van Praag said.
"It is about time that the organisation is normalized and that its full focus is back on football. For quite some time, I was hoping that another credible challenger would put himself forward, but that simply has not happened. In that case, one should not confine oneself to words, but follow them up with deeds and decisiveness, which is why I now announce my candidacy."
Van Praag, who slammed Blatter's leadership at the UEFA Congress in Sao Paulo last summer and was tipped to emerge as a presidential candidate, is the first challenger to the Swiss to reveal he has the support of the required five FAs.
At the congress in June 2014, Van Praag was the first of FIFA’s 209 federation leaders to oppose Blatter’s push for re-election, citing the World Cup bidding corruption scandals that have tarnished FIFA's integrity and left Blatter's reputation in tatters.
"If you're somewhere sixteen years, you have to ask yourself if you are adding something," he said at the time. "The image of FIFA has deteriorated after everything that has happened in recent years. Few take it seriously. No matter how you look at it, Blatter is ultimately responsible."
Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA deputy general, is struggling to gain the five nominations to stay in the FIFA presidential race.
FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan met with UEFA president Michel Platini in Nyon before the ExCo meeting.
Former France international and Tottenham Hotspur star David Ginola has also declared his intention to challenge Blatter. His campaign is backed by a bookmaker well-known for its publicity stunts and his quest is likely to end on Thursday unless he can gather the necessary five nominations.
Following Van Praag’s decision to take on Blatter, general secretary Gianni Infantino confirmed that UEFA will not take a position to support either Van Praag or Prince Ali.
"UEFA believes there should be an open and public debate about the future of FIFA, we believe it would be positive for football if credible candidates seek nominations," Infantino was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters at a news conference on Monday.
"There is no candidate of UEFA, as a matter of fact because UEFA has no vote."
Van Praag will present his candidacy for the FIFA presidency at a Wednesday press conference in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium.
The FIFA presidential election takes place at the congress in Zurich on May 29.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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