LONDON — David Beckham waded into the FIFA presidential election on Tuesday, singling out former Real Madrid teammate Luis Figo in his bid to unseat Sepp Blatter.
The 39-year-old Beckham, who retired from soccer in 2013, has largely kept his distance from the world of FIFA politics after being part of England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid.
But on Tuesday, he issued a statement to The Associated Press that seemed to embrace Figo’s candidacy for the election in May. The two played together for two seasons at Madrid.
“I welcome the candidacy of my friend Luis for FIFA president,” Beckham said. “Any successful organization needs to have good people who are passionate about the game and want to do the best for fans.
“FIFA will only benefit from having a wide range of strong candidates present their visions for the game and it’s good to see people volunteer. I wish Luis and the other candidates well.”
Figo is the only former player standing in the election, which also features FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein and Dutch football association chairman Michael van Praag.
The 42-year-old Figo, who has little track record in football politics and was a surprise candidate ahead of last month’s deadline, is due to detail his vision for FIFA at his manifesto launch on Thursday.
The statement from Beckham made no reference to Blatter, who he condemned in 2011 for an “appalling” suggestion that on-the-field racism could settled by a handshake between players.
The 78-year-old Blatter is seeking a fifth, four-year presidential term at scandal-tainted FIFA despite vowing before his re-election in 2011 not to stand again in 2015.
Beckham’s last foray into football politics came in 2010 during the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The bidding process, which led to Russia landing the 2018 tournament and Qatar being award the 2022 event, has been subject to ethics investigations. Beckham has previously said the process left him with a “real sick feeling,” believing there was “something wrong with the system.”
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris