Pele uncorks Champagne's FIFA presidential bid

Presidential candidate Jerome Champagne is a former football journalist who has worked for FIFA before.

Story highlights

  • Jerome Champagne launches bid for FIFA presidency
  • Frenchman is former FIFA deputy Secretary General
  • Ran Sepp Blatter's successful 2002 reelection campaign

Champagne, Pele and FIFA. It sounds just like another soiree for those who run international football.

Yet it's fundamentally different this time for the Champagne in question is a certain Jerome, the 55-year-old who launched his campaign to dethrone FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Monday.

Once one of Blatter's closest allies following his work as FIFA's deputy Secretary General between 2002 and 2005, the former diplomat is now eying the top job itself ahead of the presidential elections in June 2015.

He is the first candidate to throw his hat into the ring, although both Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini are also expected to stand -- albeit without declaring their intentions yet.

Adding sparkle and fizz to the opening of Champagne's campaign was the backing of former Brazil star Pele.

Qatar heat likely problem for World Cup
Qatar heat likely problem for World Cup

    JUST WATCHED

    Qatar heat likely problem for World Cup

MUST WATCH

Qatar heat likely problem for World Cup 03:49
The business of the World Cup
The business of the World Cup

    JUST WATCHED

    The business of the World Cup

MUST WATCH

The business of the World Cup 02:16
FIFA World Cup Trophy takes off
FIFA World Cup Trophy takes off

    JUST WATCHED

    FIFA World Cup Trophy takes off

MUST WATCH

FIFA World Cup Trophy takes off 01:50
FIFA president Blatter controversial
FIFA president Blatter controversial

    JUST WATCHED

    FIFA president Blatter controversial

MUST WATCH

FIFA president Blatter controversial 03:20

"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," the 73-year-old said in a video message.

Read: Pele promises 'fantastic' World Cup

Pele said that the pair became friends when he was Brazil's Minister of Sport and Champagne was working at the French Embassy in Brazil.

However, Champagne -- who worked at FIFA for 11 years before leaving football's world governing body in 2010 -- chose London and the site where the English FA, the planet's oldest, was founded in 1863 to launch his bid.

Image Problem

In a wide-ranging reform program, the Frenchman outlined his support for greater use of technology in football, a desire to see orange cards and the use of a sinbin to be used between a yellow and red card while also calling for more transparency in the running of FIFA.

"I have to recognize there is an image problem that we need to reconcile," Champagne told CNN.

"If we want to tackle the challenges of the game in the 21st century, we need a FIFA that is more proactive, regulating and democratic -- and that comes with transparency and accountability."

Campaigning under the banner "Hope for Football, Hope for All", a man who helped Blatter stand for a successful reelection in 2002 also expressed a desire to redress global imbalances, believing in major disparities in the power of certain leagues, countries and continents.

"FIFA is no different to the rest of our society," he told CNN's World Sport program. "We see a growing wealthiest 1% controlling more of the game, and the middle and less favored classes suffer from that situation. Football is a universal vehicle, and that's why we need to protect it so that it can connect people and nations together."

Read: FIFA hints at winter World Cup

In a move likely to find favor with many football fans around the world, Champagne also backed an ongoing investigation into how Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

"The World Cup is the largest, most followed sport event in the world. We need to go to a World Cup with total tranquility and serenity," said a man who is bidding to become the first French president of FIFA since Jules Rimet, the founder of the World Cup, in the 1950's.

Qatar's World Cup hosting in jeopardy?
Qatar's World Cup hosting in jeopardy?

    JUST WATCHED

    Qatar's World Cup hosting in jeopardy?

MUST WATCH

Qatar's World Cup hosting in jeopardy? 02:35
Winter World Cup in 2022?
Winter World Cup in 2022?

    JUST WATCHED

    Winter World Cup in 2022?

MUST WATCH

Winter World Cup in 2022? 02:17
FIFA pass racism reforms
FIFA pass racism reforms

    JUST WATCHED

    FIFA pass racism reforms

MUST WATCH

FIFA pass racism reforms 02:02

"If something (improper) has happened, we need to know and if nothing has happened, we need to know as well." The decision has proven highly controversial, especially with the mooted suggestion that the tournament will now be played outside of the traditional months of May-July for the first time in World Cup history because of the intense heat during the Qatari summer.

Funding his own campaign, Champagne needs the support of five national associations to be eligible to stand for election.

He believes this will be possible because of his consultancy work with a number of FA's around the world since leaving FIFA in 2010.

Televised Debate

He may need to work on his campaigning style though, after telling reporters on Monday that he was not sure he could beat Blatter when asked if he could depose the man that has led FIFA since 1998.

"No, I don't think so. He is someone of relevance and we'll see but it's a very hypothetical question," he replied. "A lot can happen."

Nonetheless, Champagne seems as though he will be happy if he can make how the game should be run into a global conversation.

He wants all the presidential candidates to take part in live televised debates whereby both viewers and fans can ask questions.

"At the very least I want to open up the debate so these issues are examined properly," he added.

Should he perhaps surprise even himself and emerge victorious in 2015, Champagne would not have to move far -- since he already lives in Zurich, where FIFA is based, with his wife and children.

      Football Focus

    • French football great bids adieu

      After 20 years, more than 300 goals and a host of major honors, Thierry Henry has called time on his glittering football career.
    • Mario's 'Queen' tweet tops 2014 list

      He might be struggling to score goals for Liverpool, but Mario Balotelli's cheeky tweet about the British monarch hit the spot during the World Cup.
    • bpr south african soccor senzo meyiwa death _00000402.jpg

      Loss of a South African 'icon'

      Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
    • German alleged jihadist Kreshnik B (R) listens to his lawyer Mutlu Guenal (L) as he arrives at the higher regional court in Frankfurt. His face is pixelated for legal reasons.

      From Jewish football to ISIS suspect

      Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
    • Where has 'Super' Mario gone?

      One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
    • Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.

      Should rapist return to work?

      Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
    • Teen, 15, makes Euro history

      Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.