Brazilian great blasts FIFA for "destroying" football

Former Brazil midfielder and Japan coach Zico has rounded on the system in place to elect Sepp Blatter’s replacement as FIFA president, as the deadline for submissions looms into view.

Zico voiced his intention to stand as a candidate back in June but he has yet to submit his application to the game’s governing body as he does not have the support of five federations, as required under election rules.

The deadline for entrants to submit the required paperwork is on Monday this week, with the line-up currently featuring Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussain, who lost to Blatter back in May, as well as former Blatter aide Jerome Champagne, David Nakhid from Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale.

Michel Platini has also submitted his application for football’s top job, but the Frenchman is suspended along with Blatter and may not be allowed to run as the crisis engulfing the game continues to deepen.

I have erased the word ‘surprise’ from my dictionary when we talk about FIFA

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke was also suspended alongside Platini and Blatter earlier this month over corruption allegations.

Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa is expected to put his name forward before the deadline for the election, which will be held in Zurich on February 26.

“Every single candidate, almost, has something that people suspect about him,” the 62-year-old, who represented his country as a player at three World Cups, told FourFourTwo.

“I don’t want to work in a system where the number one is suspended and the number two is expelled.

Suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter

“All the workers and people that are in FIFA are afraid of working because they don’t know who their leaders are. So thinking outside of the political machine of FIFA means working for football and not focusing on defending oneself.

“People are worried about defending themselves and not on working for football. This is not a machine I want to be part of. We just want to do what is best for football and stop destroying the love of my life, which is football.”

In addition to a playing career where he represented Brazil on 71 occasions and played for Flamengo, Italian side Udinese and Japan’s Kashima Antlers, Zico also worked as general manager at the J.League club and was the technical director when Brazil reached the final of the 1998 World Cup.

Zico has also served as secretary for sport in Brazil, led Japan to the Asian Cup title as head coach in 2004 before working in club football in Turkey, Greece and Uzbekistan and coaching the Iraq national team.

Outside of Platini, none of the other current candidates can boast a track record that matches Zico’s association with the sport, and he believes those with a history of playing the game need to be involved at the very summit of the governing body.

Every single candidate, almost, has something that people suspect about him

“Most of all, it’s about creating a new atmosphere where football people are part of FIFA and those people will hire specific professionals for specific jobs and above all there will be an open door for ideas and vision,” he said.

“That is what we need to bring to FIFA. That is important because democracy is part of football. Nothing is more democratic than football. That is why FIFA has so many affiliates, more than the United Nations.

“For me, FIFA has reached an end. The way it is now it is impossible to continue and the way it is now is only an opportunity for us to change everything. We cannot let even the threat of the people of the same level who are working for FIFA continue to be part of FIFA.

“Today FIFA is nothing other than a black box. When I put forward my name for the candidacy for the FIFA presidency the situation was already dramatic. Now after all that has happened in the last few weeks, simply no one imagined it would be so wrong.

“I have erased the word ‘surprise’ from my dictionary when we talk about FIFA. There are no surprises any more.”

Zico from his playing days with Brazil

 The Brazilian great believes the practice of confederations and regions voting en masse for a candidate is doing a disservice to the sport, with the varying needs of each country not being addressed.

“We cannot believe that the needs of Vietnam are the same as China and they are both in Asia,” he said. “We cannot believe a federation such as Canada has the same needs as the federation of Mexico. We really have to view every federation as one.

“So, if Hong Kong has specific needs they should vote for the candidate they want. Federations, who are the voters, would then know what the candidates represent and they would choose the candidate they want and they would be held accountable to the fans and professionals in each country.

“So, if Chile chooses a candidate they will explain why to the fans they chose this candidate.”

To address FIFA’s issues publicly, Zico proposed a televised debate be held, but only South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon – who intended to stand but has also been banned by FIFA’s ethics committee – had supported the idea.

“It couldn’t happen because of the other candidates,” said Zico. “Why do they keep hiding themselves? Why do they keep putting themselves behind this continuous curtain of smoke? Because they want to continue to take control of the amazing gold mine that is FIFA.

“We need to stop these black boxes. Black boxes belong to airplanes, not to football associations.”