By Paul Nicholson
February 1 – It is harder to get five nominations for the FIFA presidency than it is to get 100 votes in the election, said Ramon Vega, who is putting together a challenge for the top job at the world governing body.
Vega has spent his own money travelling the world lobbying for his candidature and says that while he has a lot of support there is a real “fear” by federations, especially within the smaller ones, that FIFA’s president and his iron-fisted executive will punish them if they are seen to question his rule.
Asked whether he has his five member association nominations for the presidency he laughs. “Spiritually and philosophically I have 106, actually perhaps a bit less, but it is a significant number. That of course is meaningless if I don’t have the first five and we are close – we just need a little bit more bravery,” said Vega.
Asked if he could win he said: “Look, sometimes it is not just about winning and losing. Of course I think I could win but there needs to be some time for people to get to know me better and what I would do within FIFA if I was elected. They need to get that chance and then decide for themselves.
“First we need to get on the ballot sheet and let’s see who has the courage to be one of those five penalty takers. I think I know who they are, perhaps we will have a few more,” he said.
“What I promise is that FIFA would become a welcoming, transparent and fair organisation that would put football first. And I think federations would find that they have more money, not less, and delivered in a fairer way with more support.”
Vega keeps returning to theme of democracy and transparency. Two concepts that have always been a challenge for FIFA.
“What is needed is that their needs to be a challenge and a debate on the future of world football. At the moment power is concentrated in too few hands who reinforce their power in uncomfortable ways because the structure has been circumvented to allow this. I have met very few federations who are happy with this. It is easier to stand up as part of a bigger group to debate. Being one of the first five takes a bit more courage.
“I know that many federations live in fear of FIFA because that is where they get their money. It is their lifeblood, it is how they finance their football and their people. I understand this but sometimes people have to be a little brave and stand up for what they really belive and make a difference. They need to look at themselves a little bit and ask some tough questions.”
Asked about the use of the money sloshing around in the organisation, he said: “The money is not the problem – money does not have a character, trust me, I know, I have been an investment banker. It is the characters that control that money and how they control it where there is danger. We saw that problem in FIFA before – people went to prison. We must not let this pattern repeat itself.”
“FIFA must be a democracy, it shouldn’t be afraid to debate its future openly and with transparency. Only that way will it be a truly world game. I don’t think you could honestly call it a world game now. Too many people have lost their voices or had them removed,” he continued.
“I do think you could call it a playground for global politics and that is getting worse. This is very worrying for the sport. For many of the people I have spoken to it really is time for them to stand up and be counted but sometimes you just have to ask the questions and send a message.”
There is little doubt Vega has sent a message.
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