It’s official — world football’s controversial leader Sepp Blatter is set to enter the enemy’s lair just weeks after accusing UEFA of plotting to depose him.
The FIFA president is prepared to the risk of public humiliation in Vienna next month as he faces the three men who plan to usurp him with European governing body UEFA considering giving each candidate the chance to make their case at its congress on March 24.
FIFA confirmed to CNN that Blatter plans to be in Austria for the congress as he steps up his campaigning to retain the presidency.
With 209 federation votes at stake, the candidates will have the opportunity to influence over a quarter of them as they address UEFA’s 54 member nations at an event that would be broadcast online.
Seeking a fifth consecutive term in office at the age of 79, Blatter is facing challenges from Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, Dutchman Michael van Praag and former Real Madrid and Barcelona star Luis Figo.
All three of Blatter’s opponents have declared their willingness to take part in a live debate with the Swiss, who has previously rejected such offers by claiming football should not “imitate politics.”
That’s a reference to the political debates, for example in the United States and Britain, where politicians slug it out in front of the cameras ahead of elections.
While Prince Ali has called for an open debate and Van Praag even suggested a Google hangout, UEFA is examining the possibility of giving each candidate an allotted amount of time to outline their plans to repair FIFA’s battered image.
The world governing body’s reputation has been dragged through the mud by the furor over alleged corruption surrounding the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
That criticism reached a fever pitch when the man brought in by FIFA to investigate, U.S. lawyer Michael Garcia, resigned in protest last year, unhappy that his published summary did not accurately reflect his findings.