U.S. writer in bid to oust FIFA head

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U.S. writer in bid to oust FIFA head

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - U.S. sports journalist Grant Wahl, who intends to run for president of FIFA, is hoping one of world football’s 208 national associations will give him a chance to take on Sepp Blatter.

Wahl, who announced on the Internet his aim of unseating Blatter, has five weeks to secure the one nomination he needs to get on the ballot for the FIFA congress in Zurich from May 31 to June 1. Blatter, who will be 75 next month, will likely face a challenge from Mohammed Bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the Asian Football Confederation.

Wahl, who writes about football for the weekly magazine Sports Illustrated, said he believes an outsider is needed to press the case for change in how FIFA operates.

“A lot of it is about sending a message to FIFA on behalf of world soccer fans - that people want to see change,” the 37-year-old told Reuters on Sunday. “The reaction has been extremely positive from world soccer fans. It has been very global, which doesn’t totally surprise - I travel a lot and I know there is a lot of dissatisfaction with FIFA.

“I haven’t had any contact with federations yet - I’ve been dealing with a lot of response on social media and newspaper, radio, television. Now it’s about trying to see if it is possible to find a federation to nominate me before the April 1 deadline. There are a lot of federations out there but obviously it is a huge long shot.”

Wahl has spoken to one leading football official - his compatriot Chuck Blazer, a FIFA executive committee member.

“He’s been great about it - he thought it was creative, that’s cool,” Wahl said. “I think he has a sense of humor about what I am doing - even though there is a serious element about it. Whether other [executive committee] members have that sense of humor, I don’t know.”

Wahl was highly critical in print over the selection of Russia and Qatar as hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals.

He wrote: “For an outfit that likes to thump its chest and claim that it is not corrupt [Trust us, says FIFA president Sepp Blatter], having two oil-wealthy winners is the clearest message possible that FIFA needs a complete overhaul in its leadership and organization.”

Wahl hopes he will be able to confront Blatter in a debate on home turf at the congress of the North American, Central American and Caribbean confederations on May 3 in Miami.

“Maybe if I do get nominated, then at the confederations congress in Miami maybe we can have a debate,” Wahl said. “There is a tradition, in America at least, of outside candidates. Whether I win or not is not the big point. I am doing this on behalf of the world’s football fans. It is the world’s most popular sport and they want FIFA to be an organization they can be proud of.”

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