Things to Know About the FIFA Presidential Election


20150831 PG9 FIFAFIFA 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:

Reality Check

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.”

Africa’s 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.

Caribbean Question

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 Sheikh

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.

Soccer and Hispanics: Not Always the Perfect Match


20150824 PG10 SOCCERHey there brands, not all Hispanics are into soccer. Yes it’s true that there are a lot of Hispanics who love soccer and have a deep passion for it, but there are other ways to form a connection with us. I may be the odd one out since I’d much rather watch an (American) football game or a basketball game, or maybe even a baseball game, than watch a soccer game.

Professional football ranks higher than any other major sport amongst U.S. Hispanics. According to this article on Multicultural Retail 360:

  • Over 65% of Hispanics watch football
  • 29% of them identify as “avid” fans
  • Spanish-dominant Hispanic viewers increased by more than 15% in the past year
  • Last year’s Super Bowl was the highest rated program ever among this segment

Historically, NFL culture has had very few Hispanic players, so Hispanic culture has not been well represented. The NFL is working very hard to change that with Hispanic youth programs and Spanish-language advertising. Because the NFL has a much shorter season than the other major sports, spanning only 16 weeks, it can afford to broadcast all the games in Spanish.

Of the 32 different franchises in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys consistently have the most Hispanic fans. Part of the reason that they have such a huge Hispanic following is that they have Hispanic Heritage Initiatives that help build a stronger connection with Hispanics. And it doesn’t hurt that Texas shares a border with Mexico. One of the brands that has capitalized on Hispanics’ affinity for the Cowboys is Miller Lite. It’s the official Beer of the Dallas Cowboys, and they target Hispanics extensively in their advertising.

There are millions of Hispanics in the U.S. that didn’t grow up with a soccer ball next to their bed.  Incorporating soccer in every ad campaign that targets Hispanics just to try to establish a connection and pretend that the brand understands Hispanic culture is the new “Piñata.”

Red Sox Launch New Spanish-Language Website


20150504 PG8 RedSoxThe Boston Red Sox have launched a new Spanish-language website

The club press release stated that the website will feature  live streaming, game information and recaps, details about community programs, links for purchasing tickets and information about events taking place at Fenway Park.

Play Ball!


Who knew that the movie “The Sandlot” – celebrating 22 years this month – was way ahead of its time? You see how the main character and the team’s best baseball player, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, is Latino. I love that movie. But I had never thought about it in that cultural context.

While the 2015 demographic MLB Opening Day breakdown has yet to be released, 2014 provides an illustration of how diverse MLB is:

“The Dominican Republic again leads the Major Leagues with 83 players born outside the United States. Venezuela ranks second with 59 players, marking its fourth-highest total of all time. Cuba places third with 19 players, setting a new all-time high and surpassing last year’s record high of 15.

Rounding out the totals are Puerto Rico (11); Canada (10); Japan (9), Mexico (9); Curaçao (5, surpassing its previous high of four set in 2009 and 2012); Colombia (4, matching its previous high set last year); Panama (4); Nicaragua (3, matching its previous high set in 2012)

And with Cuban relations easing, we’re bound to see a greater Cuban presence on MLB rosters similar to what we have seen in the Dominican Republic: a greater emphasis on training camps in Cuba.

MLB is ahead of its time, as it already (to an extent), exemplifies the estimated U.S. population in 2050. The U.S. Census projects that by 2050, Hispanics will make up about 29% of the total population. Today, 26.9% of MLB players are Hispanic. The biggest difference, however, is that the overwhelming majority of Hispanic MLB players (84%) are foreign born, in stark contrast to the just over 50% of U.S. born Hispanics. With U.S. born Hispanics steadily increasing, MLB will eventually be on par with total population.

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