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France's Champagne looks to lead FIFA after Blatter

Jerome Champagne has announced his intention to run for FIFA’s presidency. However, he hinted that he might abandon his challenge if Sepp Blatter were to stand for a fifth four-year term.

On Monday, Champagne, FIFA's former No. 3, became the first to declare his candidacy for football's top job, saying he would seek the five required nominations from football associations for the 2015 election. Champagne worked at FIFA from 1999 before leaving in 2010.

"We need a different FIFA, more democratic, more respected, which behaves better and which does more," Champagne, announcing his self-funded campaign.

He could profit from wrangling between his two higher-profile rivals, Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini, who have waged a drawn-out war against each other. The incumbent may stand for another term, and Champagne's fellow Frenchman Platini may challenge as well. Many expect them to announce their intentions in summer.

Asked if he could beat Blatter, Champagne said: "No, I don't think. He is someone of relevance."

‘Pele supports me'

Champagne previously worked at the French consulate in Los Angeles and embassies in Oman, Cuba and Brazil, where he met the latter country's retired national soccer legend, Pele.

"I cannot stay away from a debate which is so important for the future of football and thus I support Jerome Champagne and his vision," Pele wrote.

"I have the huge honor to be able to announce that Pele supports me," Champagne said.

After leaving FIFA, Champagne retained ties to the world of football as a consultant in places such as the Palestinian Territories, Kosovo, Cyprus and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The German endorsement?

Wolfgang Niersbach

, president of German football (DFB), said he'd meet with Champagne soon. However, he said the DFB wouldn't endorse him until all candidates had announced campaigns.

"I have known Jerome Champagne well for many years and appreciate him and his work," Niersbach said. "We will meet soon by his request as he wants to explain to me his plans and goals."

Champagne plans to give stronger representation - and more executive attention - to Africa, Asia, and the North and Central American and Caribbean Confederation (CONCACAF). He further advocates changing the distribution of World Cup berths.

He dismisses Platini's idea of increasing to 40 the number of World Cup participants, which he regards as both an "easy solution" and a sign of a "lack of courage." Champagne credits Blatter, on the other hand, with having made "historic decisions."

"I personally respect president Blatter and the ideas he stood up for: universal football with a strong FIFA," Champagne said. "I share that vision."

As president, Champagne would inherit

the problems surrounding

the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He further noted the open investigation into alleged corruption in the case of Qatar 2022.

"The World Cup is the largest, most followed sport event in the world," Champagne said. "We need to go to a World Cup with total tranquility and serenity. If something has happened, we need to know and if nothing has happened, we need to know as well."

mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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