FIFA president, David Ginola has a nice ring to it. In truth anything besides Sepp Blatter has appeal. But for the Frenchman who is more known for cringe worthy shampoo commercials than football politics, the notion of becoming FIFA’s commander in chief took a small step closer when he surprisingly announced that he will run against Blatter in the forthcoming FIFA presidential elections. The ex France international formally entered the race claiming that the FIFA system is not working and that the game needs to change. It’s a strange move by Ginola who had a very successful career in England with Tottenham, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Everton but a brave one none the less. Taking on Blatter is a daunting task, one that even UEFA president Michel Platini appears up to. Ginola’s application makes it a four horse race between Blatter, Ginola, Fifa vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and long time FIFA delegate Jerome Champagne but there is still time for additional applicants before the ballot is closed on January 29th.
The media are skeptical of Ginola’s bid for a variety of very valid reasons. Firstly there is his lack of pedigree in international football. Whilst an accomplished and well liked player, Ginola has done very little since his retirement to enhance the game, other than acting as a commentator on various TV broadcasts. Secondly to be in with a chance of progress his nomination, Ginola needs to prove the validity of his bid and showcase that he has or can obtain the support of a minimum of five football associations. The fact that Ginola could not name a single representative of the FIFA executive committee when questioned at his press conference was alarming to say the least and hints at a major flaw in his bid. And finally and most significantly his bid has been backed by Irish betting master Paddy Power, who have gained a reputation for outlandish PR stunts in recent years especially in football. In 2012, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner was fined heavily by UEFA for his part in a Paddy Power orchestrated stunt during the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine. Having just scored against Portugal in the group stages, Bendtner proceeded to reveal his Paddy Power branded underwear to the world as part of his celebration. UEFA took exception to this due to its exclusive relationship with Ladbrokes and fined the player £80,000, a fee that was later paid by the Irish betting firm. Both parties pleaded ignorance and said that they had done nothing wrong with the player claiming that they were his lucky pants and that he hadn’t broken any rules. Indeed Paddy Power mocked the decision by UEFA but fell short of denying that they were behind the stunt.
Many believe that Ginola’s application is in vein and is simply another pr stunt by the bookmaker who is reportedly paying the French star £250,000 for his involvement. If this is another stunt, then Ginola’s bid will fizzle out by the end of the month and the player will return to bad commercials and even worse commentary. However it does raise a valid point that regardless of the intentions of Ginola and his bid, his message is one that is gaining momentum. A change in FIFA is desperately needed given years of underhanded dealings, rumours of insider bullying and corruption. That change happens firstly at the top with Blatter standing aside to give someone else a fresh look at how the organization conducts itself. Of all the existing candidates, Prince Ali is by far the strongest. With financial backing and the support of some associations already behind him, the Prince is in the best position to dethrone Blatter and bring change to FIFA. Blatter however remains strong and is likely to regain his seat despite the recent problems and his aging years. The elections in May will be closely watched by many across football and its wider community with the hope that regardless of the outcome FIFA does heed the warnings and makes significant adjustments for the betterment of the game as a whole. Whether Ginola will be in that race is still to be seen or will his bid fizzle out as the marketing dollars from Paddy Power disappear.
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