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FIFA CONGRESS MOST IMPORTANT FOR 24 YEARS

Blatter, 62, from Switzerland, and Johansson, a 68-year-old Swede, are former allies who have waged an escalating war of words in their battle for the vacancy created by the retirement of 82-year-old Brazilian Joao Havelange after 24 years.
It will be the fight of their lives and the only certainty about Monday’s vote at the 51st FIFA Congress is that Havelange will be become honorary FIFA president.
But the real drama will centre on the choice of the man to lead FIFA, the world’s most powerful sports federation, into the the 21st century.
A total of 186 out of FIFA’s 198 members are eligible for the ballot, with a two-third majority of first-round votes guaranteeing victory. If a second round is needed, the winner will be decided by simple majority.
Blatter, who stepped down from most of his duties as FIFA general secretary after announcing his candidature in March, and Johansson, the UEFA president, have very different personal and management styles – although their election platforms embrace very similiar ideals.
Both are determined that FIFA will continue to grow financially; both want to improve development at the grass-roots level of the game; and both want to strengthen the national football associations and increase the standing of the important continental confederations.
But they differ in their beliefs on how the organisation should be run.
Blatter wants to limit the power of the executive committee and introduce a seven-man executive board which would meet once a month and take binding decisions.
Johansson wants a far more “transparent” approach and believes Havelange’s dictatorial methods are outdated.
The election will be the last item on the agenda of the Congress which starts on Sunday and ends on Monday – and both men are optimistic.
On Thursday Blatter wrote to FIFA’s European members – Johansson’s powerbase – seeking their support.
Johansson, who has been travelling the world virtually non-stop since March in his quest for votes, arrives in Paris on Friday for the last crucial days of electioneering.
Other items on the agenda will also have a big impact on the future of the sport.
The first is a Dutch proposal for confederations to nominate one candidate country to host future FIFA competitions, rather than allow countries of the same confederation to compete against each other.
The executive committee will also propose that a club based in one country cannot compete in a competition in another country – a move designed to put an end to speculation surrounding clubs like London-based Wimbledon who considered moving to Dublin while remaining in the English premier league.
FIFA also want to prevent cross-ownership of clubs in different countries by one company to avoid any risk of competitions being “manipulated.”
Twelve national associations will not have the right to vote at the Congress as they have not competed in at least two FIFA competitions in the past four years – Afghanistan, Myanmar, Yemen, Cape Verde Islands, Djibouti, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Niger, Sao Tome, Seychelles and Tonga.
But the outlook should be happier for Palestine, Mongolia, Eritrea, Turks and Caicos Islands, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa who are expected to have their memberships ratified.
Reuters