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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Luis Figo to challenge Sepp Blatter for FIFA presidency

Dutchman Michael van Praag has announced he will stand against Sepp Blatter in the FIFA presidential election.

Luis Figo has announced that he intends to challenge Sepp Blatter in the FIFA presidential elections.

Former Portugal star Figo is one of a number of candidates to have recently declared their interest in the role, which will be decided by a vote of the 209 Member FAs at the FIFA Congress on May 29.

Figo, who has served on the UEFA Football Committee from 2011 to 2015, issued a statement saying he will run a campaign for change, focusing on "better governance, more transparency, increased solidarity and the protection of true football values."

He added in an interview with CNN: "I care about football, so what I'm seeing regarding the image of FIFA -- not only now but in the past years -- I don't like it.

"If you search FIFA on the internet, you see the first word that comes out: 'scandal.' Not positive words. It's that we have to change first and try to improve the image of FIFA. Football deserves much better than this.

"I've been talking with so many important people in football -- players, managers, president of federations -- and they all think that something has to be done.

"Last year was the World Cup, I was in Brazil and I saw the reaction of all the fans regarding the image of FIFA and I think something has to be changed."

Luis Figo is the latest high-profile candidate to announce his interest in the role.

Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term, remains the firm favourite for the role but now faces competition from former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne, Jordanian FA president Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, Dutch FA chairman Michael van Praag, former France international David Ginola and Figo.

Former Chile FA chief Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who had previously worked as a FIFA official and had considered entering the race, confirmed on Wednesday that he had decided not to compete for the role.

Figo, 42, played at clubs including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan during his career and won the Ballon d'Or in 2000 as well as the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2001.

Any candidate seeking election must receive the support of five FAs to be eligible, which is likely to see some of the contenders ruled out prior to the vote, but Figo told CNN he has already secured the necessary backing ahead of Thursday's deadline.

Figo said he had decided to enter the running after FIFA failed to publish Michael Garcia's report into corruption for the World Cup bidding, although it has since been decided that the report will eventually be published where legally possible.

"After that report was not published, I think that was the moment of change and the moment I thought that something had to be done," Figo said.

"If you are transparent and if you ask for an investigation, a report, which you have nothing to hide, why don't you make public that report? If you have nothing to hide about that, you have to do it.

"[Publishing the report] is the easy thing to do if all the people is doubting what happened. If it came from FIFA to order that report and after that you don't publish, it is not a good decision."

Ginola could be disqualified as his campaign is being funded by bookmaker Paddy Power, which may contravene FIFA rules. Figo is also paid to do promotional work for a betting firm, Asian operator Dafabet, and was an ambassador for its 2014 World Cup promotions, which may put his hopes at risk.

The English FA is expected to back Ali, who has led calls for further reforms of the world governing body.

The Scottish Football Association has confirmed it will be one of the five national associations that will nominate Van Praag, a fierce critic of Blatter's. 

Scottish FA president Campbell Ogilvie said the body had backed Blatter four years ago on the basis he agreed it would be his last term.

Ogilvie said: "The Scottish FA can confirm its support to Michael van Praag, president of the KNVB, on his candidacy for the forthcoming FIFA presidential election.

"We believe Michael has the experience, integrity and gravitas required to expedite the modernisation of world football's governing body. Having known him for more than 20 years, I believe he is the right candidate at the right time to restore harmony to the game.

"We agreed to support Mr Blatter in 2011 on the proviso this would be his last term in office and the Scottish FA continues to hold that belief. We also remain in favour of a term limit for the role, in keeping with good governance."

Information from the Press Association and Associated Press was used in this report.

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