Luis Figo has withdrawn his candidacy from the upcoming FIFA presidential elections.
The news comes in the wake of another candidate, Royal Dutch Football Association president Michael van Praag, stepping down from the elections earlier Thursday. Van Praag threw his support behind another candidate in the race, FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
It was reported by Dutch paper De Volkskrant that the former Portugal soccer great was expected to step aside in favor of Prince Ali as well. The latter now stands as the only opposition to current FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is running for a fifth term.
In a statement Thursday, Figo bashed the electoral process, calling it "anything but an election" and explaining he "witnessed consecutive incidents, all over the world, that should shame anyone who desires soccer to be free, clean and democratic.
"I have seen with my own eyes federation presidents who, after one day comparing FIFA leaders to the devil, then go on stage and compare those same people with Jesus Christ. Nobody told me about this. I saw it with my own eyes.
The candidates were prevented from addressing federations at congresses while one of the candidates always gave speeches on his own from the rostrum. There has not been a single public debate about each candidate's proposals.
Does anyone think it's normal that an election for one of the most relevant organizations on the planet can go ahead without a public debate? Does anyone think it's normal that one of the candidates doesn't even bother to present an election manifesto that can be voted on May 29? Shouldn't it be mandatory to present such a manifesto so that federation presidents know what they're voting for?"
"This (election) process is a plebiscite for the delivery of absolute power to one man," Figo wrote, "something I refuse to go along with."
You can read his full statement here.
The election is set for May 29 in Zurich, when the 209 national federations will place their votes. A two-thirds majority is required in the first round of voting to win the election. If that fails, then a simple majority is required.
FIFA has been widely criticized for corruption, most prominently during the most recent World Cup bidding process. Russia and Qatar, who won the bidding for the 2018 and '22 World Cups, were accused of buying votes to secure a winning bid, but a FIFA investigation cleared both bids of any serious wrongdoing.
- Jeremy Woo