Race to succeed Blatter is poker game: D’Hooghe

Amsterdam, July 27

The race to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president is like a “poker game”, long-serving FIFA executive committee member Michel d’Hooghe said on Monday.

“A poker game is currently being played. I think there will be a number of candidates, one from Europe,” Belgian D’Hooghe told Dutch broadcaster NOS. D’Hooghe said UEFA president Michel Platini would be a good candidate. “Michel Platini has led UEFA well and he has taken on all the challenges. He is a wonderful man, though, in his own way. Michel is highly appreciated in European football.”

D’Hooghe, who has been a member of the powerful cabinet of world football for 27 years, will step down in two years, frustrated by allegations of corruption hanging over FIFA. “I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2017,” he said. “I have family commitments and I can tell you that last two years have been very difficult for me. Having to insist all the time that I have done nothing wrong becomes a heavy burden to bear.”

D’Hooghe was cleared in February of ethics breaches over a gift from Russia 2018 World Cup organisers and trying to secure a job in Qatar for the son of a friend. Qatar is to host the 2022 World Cup. “Everything you do comes under suspicion, everything. I have attempted to do everything ethically correct,” he said. “And if at the end your career’s work is held in doubt; that is not enjoyable.”

D’Hooghe last month criticised Blatter’s refusal to take responsibility for the corruption crisis following the arrest of several top officials in Zurich ahead of the FIFA Congress in May. “If there some that are corrupt, they have had a crushing impact,” he said. “They have tarnished the reputation of all the people who give of their best for the Institution that is FIFA. And I find that very disappointing,” he added. “I can name hundreds of FIFA employees who do their work seriously but now have to walk a little with their heads bowed below their shoulders.”

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the FIFA presidency next month, met potential rival Michel Platini in the United States and called for a ‘fair competition’ should he enter the race.

Former FIFA Vice-President Chung said last week he was still weighing up a bid to replace Sepp Blatter as the head of world football’s scandal-hit governing body and that he was thinking about making an official announcement in mid-August. Chung, the billionaire scion of the Hyundai conglomerate and one of the most influential figures in Asian soccer, posted a picture of his meeting with UEFA chief Platini on his official website and said he planned to meet him again in Europe in August.