You'd think the tone of the FIFA presidential election to find a successor for Sepp Blatter
would be all about making a break from the past, but the first few
days of the campaign have been anything but encouraging.
Only two days into the FIFA presidential campaign, the standard bearer for MLS -- and college soccer for that matter -- was
disqualified. FIFA's electoral committee threw out the application of former Trinidad & Tobago international David Nakhid,
formerly of American University
and the New England Revolution in MLS, on the grounds that one of the five federations that nominated him also nominated one of the other seven candidates, invalidating all of its letters of support.
That left him with less than the five letters of support needed to run, according to FIFA's electoral rules
Nakhid is appealing the ruling, insisting his application was
sabotaged by another candidate who got the U.S. Virgin Islands Soccer Federation to also endorse his candidacy. "All these are dirty tricks," he told AFP
. "The double nomination has been submitted in the last
hours before the deadline and we were never informed about it. The double nomination was from the U.S. Virgin Islands."
The double nomination was a clear violation of the electoral rules
-- Section 13.1(c) -- but whether Nakhid has a case remains to be seen. (The smart move would have been to submit more than five letters of support in case one or more were thrown out.)
What stands out about Nakhid's statement is not his charge of dirty tricks but that he mentioned the U.S. Virgin Islands by name. Only two days earlier, he had said he could not reveal the names of
the five federations who supported him.
"The FAs have asked me not to reveal their names because they fear there will be reprisals and that bothers me," he said at the Play the Game sports conference in Aarhus, Denmark
. "We are talking about grown men
in a sport that is supposed to be a great sport, and they are afraid to say they have backed a candidate." Jerome Champagne
, the former France
Football editor-turned diplomat-turned FIFA counselor, seconded Nakhid's charges.
"A lot of FAs said they wanted to support me but were afraid to express their own free will," Champagne
told the Play the Game conference. In the May FIFA election, Champagne could not get the five letters of support necessary to challenge his former boss, Blatter. This time, he did.
Indeed, FIFA politics have, if anything, taken a step backward since Blatter's reelection in May, When Prince Ali
announced his candidacy in February, he
revealed he had support from six federations representing Jordan, England, Malta, Georgia and Belarus in addition to the USA. After losing to Blatter 133-73 in May, Prince Ali is again a candidate for
FIFA president, but this time, he did not release the names of those federations that nominated him. U.S. Soccer has been silent about its position on the election.
Nakhid said politics,
not issues, would decide the election, scheduled to be held on Feb. 26.
"There are people behind the scenes already striking deals," he said, "so that the election is over before it has
begun and that is sad."
Already, there's lots of speculation about an agreement between UEFA (Europe) and the AFC (Asia) backing a mutually agreeable candidate:
president Michel Platini, currently suspended and ineligible;
-- If not Platini, AFC president Skeikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa
-- If not
Platini or Skeikh Salman (if he fails an integrity check
), then Gianni Infantino
, UEFA's Swiss general secretary.