- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

ZURICH (AP) - Former Brazil great Zico traveled to the home of FIFA with one goal in mind: Show everyone that he is serious about his bid to lead soccer’s world governing body.

Taking advantage of the presence of FIFA members, in town for executive meetings, Zico came along to tell his story and convince them that he is not in the presidential race just to gain visibility or profit from it.

“I leave in good condition to say that I’ve confirmed my interest and showed that we are not here to play with something so serious,” the 62-year-old Brazilian said. “I have enough know-how to suggest changes. I made my career on and off the field. It’s the right time for this entity to change.”

Zico said it was natural for people to be cautious about his intensions, so he felt it was necessary to come out and show what he is really about.

“I’m the only outsider,” he said. “I’ve never participated in anything at FIFA. People know me as an athlete, a coach, but they also need to know what I think about things. And I was able to show them my views and show that I don’t want to have my hands tied with anybody.”

Zico began his three-day visit by meeting with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, telling him that he wants to promote changes.

“I was able to tell FIFA’s president what I think is important to benefit the entity and football. That was the mission, to come here and talk to the president about the reforms and to talk to the people who will be voting. I don’t expect much, but I leave in a comfortable position, having showed, through my experience in football, things that could at some point benefit the game.”

Zico also met with federations members to try to gather the five indications needed to make his candidacy official. He said he didn’t get official commitments from anybody, but remained hopeful of getting them by the Oct. 26 deadline.

During his meeting with Blatter, Zico had criticized the eligibility rules for FIFA’s elections, saying local federations are pressured by their confederations and can’t make their own choices.

The Brazilian also met with Francois Carrard, who FIFA picked to lead the reforms process, as well as members of the Japanese delegation in Zurich and Sunil Gulati, the head of the U.S. soccer federation.

“It was a very productive time here,” he said.

A hugely gifted midfielder, Zico played in three World Cups - 1978, 1982 and 1986 - but never won the trophy. He played at clubs in Brazil, Italy and Japan before going on to a coaching career in Turkey, Greece, Russia, Uzbekistan, the Middle East and Japan’s national team. He helped lead the transformation of domestic football in Japan.

Zico is currently coaching Indian club Goa, and said he won’t have time to go around the world campaigning for FIFA’s presidency.

“If nothing happens here, my life won’t change,” he said. “I don’t have my hands tied to anybody. All I want is football to thrive. What has happened hurt us all, hurt the credibility of football.”


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni

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