FIFA presidential contender Michel Platini would not talk about it Friday, but he is the front-runner in an election that is still six months off.
Platini is the presumed favorite before an Oct. 26 deadline for nominations.
The former France great’s European members hold 53 votes, more than one-quarter of a 209-strong FIFA constituency in the Feb. 26 ballot.
By declaring early, Platini put a target on his back for rivals to take aim at. Count FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Platini’s former mentor who is stepping down amid American and Swiss corruption investigations, among them.
In an election where the most-likely candidates are probably those saying the least in public, here are some things to know:
Many call themselves FIFA candidates, few actually earn the status.
Just declaring interest in the top job and getting worldwide headlines is far from actually persuading five FIFA federations to write a nomination letter. See: Zico, Diego Maradona, and Liberia football leader Musa Bility.
Even include FIFA honorary vice president Chung Mong-joon, a billionaire whose family firm is World Cup sponsor Hyundai.
The South Korean lawmaker has returned after a four-year absence from FIFA affairs — now firing barbs at Blatter and Platini — when his country’s influence in Asian football politics seems slim at best.
Chung is also a reported target of the FIFA ethics committee over his philanthropy before losing Asia’s FIFA vice president seat in 2011.
Rich and Royal
With tycoons, princes and sheikhs in the FIFA picture, Platini’s status as a former player looks more man-of-the-people.
Still, former FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan had a manifesto to help poorer member federations when he lost to Blatter in May.
The Jordanian prince had public support from Platini when losing 133-73. Their alliance fractured and Prince Ali now says a Platini-led FIFA would be “bad for football.”
Prince Ali is seeking support for a second run and will speak on Sept. 7 at a conference in Manchester, England.
South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale confirmed Thursday he is “weighing all options.”
Sexwale is intriguing as Africa seeks respect from world football.
Africa has 54 votes, pride and little support for a European like Platini — even if its Arabic, French, English and Portuguese speaking regions have different interests.
Sexwale is a package of football, politics and business skills.
He was part of the Robben Island football collective while jailed with Nelson Mandela as an Apartheid-era political prisoner, and a member of the 2010 World Cup organizing committee. He is a former government minister who had presidential ambitions, and is a businessman with diamond and mining interests in Africa and 2018 World Cup host Russia.
He is currently on a diplomatic mission from Blatter to bring Israeli and Palestinian football federations closer together.
If Sexwale is endorsed by long-time African football leader Issa Hayatou, Blatter’s senior vice president, he has a bloc that demands respect.
The Caribbean Football Union also wants respect and to reshape its image after former officials Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb were both indicted in the American bribery case.
David Nakhid was relatively unknown in FIFA circles until recently, but the former Trinidad and Tobago player is suddenly seen as a potential candidate. The multi-lingual Nakhid, who said he was “blacklisted” as a player by fellow Trinidadian Warner, was helped coming to European football in the late 1980s by Walter Gagg, a long-time FIFA official and close Blatter confidante.
The FIFA reform process already looks a muddled power struggle, and with increasing Olympic influence.
Former IOC director general Francois Carrard has been appointed chair of a group of 12 football officials, including new FIFA executive committee member Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, that has been tasked with leading reforms of the corruption-tainted body.
Sheikh Ahmad is a hugely influential Olympic power broker and his opinion carries a lot of weight with the Asian Football Confederation, whose leadership has warmly praised Platini’s candidature without totally committing to support him.
Alliances can change in the months ahead with the most powerful job in football in play.