Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona has called FIFA, the sport's governing body, a playground for the corrupt, and voiced his displeasure at current president Sepp Blatter's leadership in a column in The Telegraph on Sunday. Blatter, who will be challenged by Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein at the FIFA presidential elections later this week, is expected to be re-elected as FIFA president for the fifth term.
Maradona, who gave his support to Prince Ali earlier this month, wrote that re-electing Blatter for the fifth term would be absurd. Maradona called Blatter a “dictator,” and criticized him as a "man of ice” for lacking inspiration and passion for the game. The soccer star, who has had his share of accolades and brickbats as one of the game's most colorful personalities, had more harsh words for FIFA and its current leader.
“Once, it was a sport you could be proud of, a sport that united the world. But Fifa, its governing body, has turned into a playground for the corrupt,” Maradona wrote in the column. “Under Sepp Blatter, Fifa has become a disgrace and a painful embarrassment to those of us who care about football deeply.”
Maradona also pointed toward media reports on scandals involving Blatter, and said that the 79-year-old Swiss football administrator is likely to be re-elected yet again because of “years of unethical patronage, favors and handouts.”
Supporting al-Hussein's bid to become the next FIFA president, Maradona had said earlier this month that soccer would benefit from a new leader.
“If I didn't believe he (Prince Ali) would be a good president, I wouldn't be here,” Mirror quoted Maradona as saying at the time. “Everyone in football knows that in FIFA there is total anarchy, where there is only one man who decides everything… But [Blatter] knows absolutely nothing. Therefore it is time for a change. He has done a lot of damage to football.”
The Jordanian prince is the only contender to challenge Blatter for the top job, after other nominees like Michael van Praag of Holland and Luis Figo of Portugal pulled out of the contest last week.
“I am a mountain goat that keeps going and going and going, I cannot be stopped, I just keep going,” Reuters quoted Blatter as saying.