Van Praag pulls out of FIFA race

Michael van Praag, an aspirant in the election of the new FIFA President, on Thursday withdrew his candidacy for the presidency of ruling football body.

Van Praag’s team said in a statement in Berlin, Germany that he would instead support Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein in the bid to topple incumbent Joseph Blatter next week.

“After a thorough deliberation and reflection with different involved parties and stakeholders, van Praag decided to withdraw his candidacy to become the next FIFA president and to join forces with presidential candidate Al-Hussein.’’

The Al-Hussein team was expected to comment on the move later on Thursday night.

There was also speculation that another candidate, former Portugal great Luis Figo, would withdraw his bid, in favour of Al-Hussein.

The Jordanian said recently that having just one candidate standing against Blatter would offer a better chance to dethrone him.

This had led to speculation that Al-Hussein would withdraw, but he said two weeks ago he would continue to run.

One football official said on condition of anonymity that Van Praag would only withdraw if Figo did the same.

Van Praag, Al-Hussein and Figo met last week at UEFA’s home city of Nyon in Switzerland, where they reportedly discussed joining forces.

Should Figo also withdraw, Al-Hussein would be the sole candidate challenging Blatter, who was searching for a fifth term, in the election to be held on May 29.

In spite of UEFA calling for Blatter to be replaced, the 79-year-old Swiss remains favourite to secure the votes needed from the 209 FIFA associations to remain in office.

The election is scheduled for the FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland.