FIFA elections: Sepp Blatter vs. Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein - who will win?
A low-key election for the FIFA presidency has exploded into life after the U.S. Department of Justice charged nine current and former officials from world football's governing body plus five others with corruption in one of the biggest scandals in the game's history.
Friday's vote by the 209 members of FIFA -- set to start at 9.30 local time (3.30 a.m. ET) and run throughout the day -- was widely expected to be little more than a formality for incumbent Sepp Blatter. Most of the football family have pledged their support for his fifth term and all but one of his challengers are out of the running.
However, what impact could Wednesday's dramatic events have on what is now a two-horse race between the Swiss administrator and Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein?
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- FIFA officials arrested at dawn in Zurich | The defendants
- Munson: The legal implications | What has been said
- Explainer: FIFA's ugly game | Timeline of corruption
Despite the best efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Swiss police, he is once again showing an uncanny knack for turning adversity into advantage. Over the past 48 hours he has claimed that the charges and arrests will "help measures already taken by FIFA" while a spokesman described him as "relaxed."
As he has done throughout the campaign, Blatter remains focused on his core constituents: the smaller football nations outside of Europe that are his power base. It was no coincidence that he was at a function organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Wednesday morning just hours after the arrest of six FIFA officials at a plush Zurich hotel. The Asian confederation (AFC) have already registered their support.
The stench of corruption might be in the air, but there is nothing to suggest that the election will be little more than a coronation for Blatter, although it might be a little more awkward than expected. He has promised to continue spending more than US$1 billion on global football development projects and has dangled the carrot of an extra World Cup place for the likes of CONCACAF and Oceania.
FIFA's integrity is in serious question and further embarrassing revelations are sure to emerge as legal proceedings against those charged get underway, but Blatter maintains he is a trusted pair of hands. Most of those voting in Zurich are likely to agree.
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein
The last man standing after Luis Figo and Michael van Praag decided to step aside and get behind him. As the sole candidate, Prince Ali will have an opportunity to address the FIFA congress ahead of the vote, but in truth, his speech already has been delivered for him by U.S. law officials and their Swiss counterparts.
Prince Ali has waged a dogged campaign promising greater transparency in the way FIFA does business and for corruption to be driven out of the organisation. Recent events could not be more timely and he already has described Wednesday's arrests and subsequent news of the two investigations into FIFA corruption as a "sad day for football."
The Jordanian will use his address to congress to hammer home his mantra that FIFA is endemically corrupt and that the time has come for new leadership. It may make for uneasy listening for Blatter, but is nothing he has not already heard.
What impact it has on the world football family is harder to predict. Over the past few months, Prince Ali has used his impressive contacts book to full effect. He is expected to pick up votes in Europe -- with Michel Platini claiming that many will back him -- parts of Asia and from some of the north African nations in addition to those who had pledged support for Figo and Van Praag.
There may be a handful of last-minute backers, but unseating Blatter will remain a big ask, despite recent events.
Vivek Chaudhary covers FIFA and the financial side of the game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @viveksport