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Brazil football legend Zico to stand for FIFA presidency

Rio de Janeiro: Former Brazil star Zico on Wednesday confirmed he will stand in the election to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA, although he admitted he may struggle to find enough support.

"I would like to confirm the decision to be a candidate," the 62-year-old told a news conference. "I feel I am capable. For sure, certain rules need to change," not least the constant "horse-trading" necessitated by the need to gather the support of at least five federations.

"That need to have five federations behind you, I think that is where the corruption starts" as favours are offered, asked for or called in, Zico said. "Much needs to change and much is going to happen" He pointed out he had come to the conclusion he ought to make a formal bid to stand after talking with former Portugal star Figo, who briefly expressed his own desire to stand for the post before pulling out last month.

"I was asked if I had talked with Figo about his being a candidate for FIFA. I said I had and that set me thinking." Blatter has already announced he will stand down from the job after the organisation he has headed since 1998 was engulfed in a series of corruption allegations.

Zico, who has experience of the game at managerial level having notably coached Japan, said he believed the game had to undergo wide-ranging reforms. But he added he believed it was right that Blatter be allowed to stay in place prior to a vote on a successor due to be elected between December and March.

"This will allow him to make an orderly handover," Zico told reporters in Rio. Zico, nicknamed the "White Pele" during a playing career which never yielded a World Cup triumph, joked that controversial Argentine legend Diego Maradona might be a potential vice-president.

Maradona, a World Cup winner in 1986, was banned for doping eight years later and a previous drugs ban while playing in Italy would suggest he has little chance of joining the game's establishment. But he is a football name -- and he has every right therefore to "put his name forward" if he wished to do so, Zico said. He stressed that his own -- albeit brief -- experience two decades ago of serving as Brazilian minister of sport was an extra string to his bow.

"I bring to the table experience and knowledge," he insisted. While underlining his interest in standing for a revamped FIFA, Zico said he would first insist on a simplified voting system which is less open to "horsetrading and exchanging of favours." And he added he would also call for a system of "one re-election at most," noting that Blatter and predecessor, Brazilian Joao Havelange, had held the post between them for the past four decades -- his own entire career as player and coach. He also said current UEFA president Michel Platini would make a good leader of the game's world body.

Zico added that the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) also needed a total overhaul with former president Jose Maria Marin one of seven top FIFA officials arrested in Zurich late last month as part of an FBI probe into corruption in the sport. "But that is even more difficult" than reforming FIFA, Zico suggested, in wearily acknowledging that Brazilian football politics has long been a murky business. He added he did not have close links with the CBF top brass.

On Thursday the organization will hold a general assembly at its Rio headquarters where Marco Polo del Nero, who replaced Marin in March, will have to address the fallout from the FIFA corruption scandal after his predecessor was ensnared by the probe. 

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