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French diplomat Champagne enters race for FIFA presidency

Once a member of France's diplomatic corps, Jerome Champagne now wants to lead FIFA. Champagne has spoken critically of giving the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and of inequality in world football.

Former diplomat-turned-football executive Jerome Champagne officially announced his candidacy to become

the next president of FIFA

on Friday. The 57-year-old Frenchman is the fourth official candidate to seek the top job at world football's scandal-hit governing body.

Champagne is set to face UEFA head Michel Platini, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, and former Trinidad and Tobago national captain David Nahkid. All are vying to replace outgoing chief Sepp Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998 and is stepping down at a time of crisis for the organization.

Prosecutors are investigating both Blatter and Platini among wider probes into corruption and bribery within FIFA that have seen many executives arrested in separate US and Swiss inquiries into tournament-buying and distribution of marketing rights.

Champagne highlights inequality in world soccer

Speaking of his candidacy, Champagne, who has helped create a mediation mechanism between the Palestinian and Israeli national football teams, seemed far away from the legal trouble plaguing other parts of the organization.

Champagne talked instead of the need for strong governance through FIFA and its five continental associate organizations in order to spread the wealth of a multi-billion dollar sport.

"The 20 wealthiest clubs in the world have a cumulative turnover of 6.2 billion euros ($6.90 billion) per year, but more than half the 209 national football federations survive with less than 2 million euros a year (each)," he told Reuters news agency.

"The national team of Papua New Guinea plays only two matches a year because they cannot afford the plane tickets. The annual budget is not even half a million euros."

The ex-diplomat also pointed in his Reuters interview out the disparity between the surroundings of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich and some of the conditions national leagues are forced to play in.

"Near my flat in Zurich is a park; there are six football pitches, five natural and one artificial; this suburb of Zurich has more good quality pitches than the whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 70 million inhabitants," he said.

Champagne has also spoken of his intention to reconsider the awarding of

the 2022 World Cup to Qatar

if he is elected. This tournament, along with the one in Russia in 2018, is part of the corruption investigation led by Swiss prosecutors.

The FIFA presidential election will take place in Zurich next February.

es/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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