Barcelona and Real Madrid legend Lius Figo today expressed hope that newly elected FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, will clean up the image of the corruption-hit world body during his tenure. “I have my hope in Gianni because he is the person that I support. He was one of the persons that helped me and supported me in the moment that I was a (presidential) candidate,” said Figo at the launch of a new franchise-based initiative - Premier Futsal - to be held in July in eight cities in India.
“Basically we share ideas with what the organisation needs to do to get back the credibility that an organisation running global football should have. So I have my hopes that can change everything,” added the 43-year-old former Portugal player who had pulled out of the presidential race midway.
Figo said he did not have the details of fresh allegations surfacing vis-a-vis FIFA via the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations.
“I just saw it on CNN, but haven’t seen any kind of names. I saw there was something regarding FIFA and the Chinese government, but I’m not really clear about who and what happened,” said Figo who is the president of the Futsal initiative in the country.
“I can’t say anything from that. They just have to investigate. When there is some clear news and proof, we can talk about it. Like we say, till you are proven guilty, you should have the benefit of innocence. In the last few days there has been a lot of information about it but we have to wait and see what is going to happen,” he added when asked about allegations in the ‘Panama Papers’ against Michel Platini and Lionel Messi, two huge names in football.
Asked about the eight marquee players in Premier Futsal, to be held from July 15-24, Figo advised patience.
“That is a secret of business (laughter). We don’t want to announce everything in one day. Not that we don’t have news to give you.
“I hope it will be a success. that is our idea,” he said.
When suggested that futsal is hardly known in India, he retored, “So we’ll make it known. Because of that we are here, to make it known. If it was known, we would not be here. We like challenges.”
Figo backed his country of birth, Portugal, as well of residence, Spain, to do well in the upcoming Euro 2016 in France.
“Portugal always have the hope to do well or do better than the last editions. We have a lot of hopes to do well in France, of course. To achieve a good position. If we are going to do it or not, you never know. We have a good team.
“Theoretically, our group, I think we can make it. And after that it’s the knockout and anything can happen.
“But in the end, all kind of national teams that have the experience of reaching always the semifinals, finals, they are the favourites. France play at home, Spain, Italy, Portugal and (World champions) Germany, of course,” he added.
He also said he did not look beyond Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to lift this year’s Champions League.
“Sometimes, in some games, these things help you overcome certain moments or to pass a knockout stage. Anything can happen but they are the best teams in the competition right now. There can be a surprise but my favourites are these teams because of these reasons.”
Figo said if investors come forward, he was willing to open football academies in India.
“I’m looking for investors. If someone wants to open academies, I’m glad of course. But no, jokes aside, of course you have to try to build conditions for the kids to have the opportunities in their lives if they love to play football.
“I’ve just arrived in India, but in the past 2 years I’ve opened a few academies in China. Since then we’ve grown really fast..in 14 cities. Right now we have 40 Portuguese coaches in the different cities. So anything can happen.”