Jerome Champagne, a former French diplomat who once held the position of FIFA deputy secretary, has announced he will challenge Sepp Blatter's reign as FIFA president during the governing body's next set of elections in 2015, as reported by Sky Sports:
Such an announcement will take many by surprise, especially as Champagne played a key role in landing Blatter his second stint as overlord in 2002, per Mihir Bose of The Independent:
If battle is joined it will be between two men who for many years were very close. In 2002, Champagne ran Blatter’s successful re-election campaign and was very proud of the fact that he succeeded in getting more votes from Africa for Blatter despite the Swiss being up against Issa Hayatou, the head of the African football federation.
Champagne was handed the FIFA deputy secretary role as a result of this achievement, but three years later, his relationship with the Swiss leader became strained. This was due to Champagne eyeing himself as Blatter's successor.
As noted in Bose's report, various corruption scandals and Blatter-based mishaps have provided Champagne with the perfect opportunity to present himself as a "radical reformer" who will drastically improve FIFA's reputation.
Blatter is yet to decide whether he will run for presidency next year, as reported by The Guardian, but the 77-year-old is likely to face real competition from Champagne if he does.
The current president has often appeared out of touch with modern football and has a string of controversies to his name. He once suggested women's football would attract greater attention if the players wore "tighter shorts," per BBC Sport, while he also defended diving, as summarised by Goal.com.
Blatter has even claimed draws should be abolished from football and only welcomed the introduction of goal-line technology after Frank Lampard's goal was wrongfully ruled out during England's crucial Euro 2012 match with Germany, per BBC Sport.
It is unclear what plans Champagne would implement if he took over as president, but he is 22 years younger than Blatter and could offer a fresh approach after the current chief's steady run of mistakes since 1998.