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Wahl '96 campaigns for FIFA job

“Make no mistake, FIFA needs to change,” Wahl proclaimed in his Feb. 17 column, “It’s time for someone to depose Sepp Blatter as FIFA’s leader.”

“It gets kind of old hearing the world’ s soccer fans complain about Blatter without anyone trying to provide an alternative,” he added.

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Wahl is basing his campaign on stamping out the alleged rampant corruption and cronyism that have plagued FIFA for decades. Indeed, Wahl cites last December’s voting on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, in which the United States lost the 2022 bid to Qatar in the final round of voting, and the lead-up to the voting, in which two members of FIFA’s executive committee were caught accepting bribes, as evidence that FIFA is a troubled organization.

“Blatter himself admits that FIFA’s reputation has been tarnished under his watch,” he wrote in his article. Wahl, whose tongue-in-cheek campaign slogan is “Cure the Blatter infection,” believes that his “outsider” status will help him make significant inroads in solving FIFA’s long-term problems.

“As the ultimate outsider I’ll bring FIFA into the 21st century by enacting the reforms no appa­rat­chik in the old boy network would dare propose,” he wrote. Wahl would focus on making pragmatic reforms, such as appointing a woman as general secretary (there are currently no women on the 24-member Executive Committee or any of FIFA’s women’s committees), and releasing FIFA documents from the Blatter era to expose the suspected corruption.

The 37-year-old Wahl will face almost insurmountable competition from 75-year-old Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998. Blatter has long been suspected of fixing FIFA’s 1998 and 2002 elections through bribery and has come under almost universal international criticism for refusing to allow video-replay and goal line technology in matches. He has also faced criticism for comments he has made to the press, branded by some as sexist and homophobic.

FIFA does not take kindly to newcomers like Wahl. FIFA’s previous president, Brazilian Joao Havelange, ruled the organization from 1974 to 1998, while Wahl’s other competitor, Bin Hammam, has been in charge of the Asian Football Confederation since 2002 and a member of the FIFA Executive Committee since 1996.

“Blatter is one of only two FIFA presidents in the last 37 years!” Wahl said in his column. “No wonder his FIFA has as much transparency and credibility as the Mubarak regime did.” In fact, most sports pundits have considered Wahl’s campaign to be an elaborate joke, citing as evidence a humorous campaign video he included with his article and the April 1 deadline by which he must be nominated by a national soccer organization to be president. Still, Wahl remains adamant that he is a serious candidate and that his humor and sarcasm can act as a powerful weapon to expose FIFA’s hypocrisy.

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“I want people to have a sense of humor about my campaign because I know I’m not a typical candidate, and I also think humor and satire are two of the most powerful weapons we have as human beings,” he said in a March 11 interview with afootballreport.com. “But I also want people to know that I’m serious about wanting major reforms in FIFA.”

Wahl’s campaign can be followed on his Facebook and Twitter pages.

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