RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil soccer legend and former Japan national team coach Zico revealed he gave up his campaign for the FIFA presidency on Monday after failing to muster the required five association nominations.
“I had good response from at least six associations but moves within UEFA swayed things,” said Zico on Brazilian local radio, explaining that a late bid by Gianni Infantino, the general secretary of the European soccer’s administrative body, saw him lose vital backing.
Infantino, a 45-year-old Swiss, was given a unanimous backing by UEFA on Monday, hours before the deadline for candidates to announce their intention to run. The election to determine who replaces disgraced FIFA head Sepp Blatter will be held in February 2016.
The 62-year-old Zico, currently coaching FC Goa in the Indian Super League, told Kyodo News earlier on Monday that if his record is put up against any of the other FIFA presidential candidates, his would prevail every time.
“If I cannot become FIFA president with my CV, I ask anyone to explain what kind of experience and CV one needs to become FIFA president,” Zico said.
Zico was lured out of retirement as a player to move to Japan in 1991 ahead of the start of the fledgling J. League, and guided Japan to the AFC Asian Cup title in 2004 as well as to the FIFA World Cup two years later in Germany. He also had managerial stints in Turkey, Uzbekistan, Russia, Greece, Iraq and Qatar.
He told Kyodo News that he believed his breadth of experience was unrivaled among the potential candidates because he has a “vision not many have in football.”
Infantino worked with UEFA president Michel Platini, once seen as the most likely successor to Blatter, who is currently serving a 90-day provisional suspension from FIFA for allegedly receiving undocumented payments. It remains unclear whether Platini will be able to run for the post as he needs to clear his name via the FIFA ethics committee.
Infantino joins the race that includes Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussain, who lost May’s election to Blatter, former Blatter aide Jerome Champagne and Trinidad and Tobago’s David Nakhid, alongside South African mining magnate Tokyo Sexwale, Bahrain’s current Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa and Liberia’s FA president Musa Bility.
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