David Ginola wants to run for FIFA presidency against Sepp Blatter

    (CNN)If FIFA's presidential race boiled down to looks, there would be only be one winner.

    In one corner, enigmatic Frenchman David Ginola, his carefully coiffured hair and dulcet tones a sparkly antidote to the man in the other, current incumbent and balding septuagenarian Sepp Blatter.
    The former player's coruscating presence would undoubtedly light up the conference rooms and corridors of power in the shiny bunker that serves as the headquarters of world football's governing body in Switzerland.
      "David Ginola is a great candidate for the FIFA presidency who will hopefully give all football lovers a real champion to get behind," a member of Ginola's campaign team told CNN.
      And while many might dismiss the 47-year-old's bid to become soccer's most powerful individual as a gimmick, Ginola has some heavyweight backing in the form of a bookmaker, and one of the globe's biggest public relations firms.
      The ordinary football fan on the street would no doubt rank Ginola more popular than his rival by virtue of a distinguished and exuberant 17-year playing career that saw him star for the likes of French outfit Paris Saint-German and Tottenham in England.
      But even though Blatter's 17-year reign has been blighted, in its latter years at least, by scandal and criticism, the Swiss appears a vice-like grip on the presidency.
      So why is Ginola putting his head above the parapet, and can he really oust a 78-year-old who enjoys overwhelming support from the majority of FIFA's 209 members?
      Flying Frenchman
      Ginola embodied the newly discovered flamboyance of the English game when he signed for Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United in 1995.
      The Premier League was in its infancy, with glamorous, foreign players pouring into the competition, and the Frenchman's silky skills, good looks and flowing locks made an instant impact.
      Though he had bagged a Ligue 1 title and two French Cup triumphs with Paris Saint-Germain, he arrived in the north east of England under something of a cloud.
      Ginola's failure to keep possession at the end of a crucial qualifier with Bulgaria led to a late equalizer that meant France failed to qualify for the 1994 World in the United States.
      National team coach Gerard Houllier said Ginola had "sent an Exocet missile through the heart of French football" and for a time afterwards he was barracked by supporters.
      But if the public were skeptical about him in France, fans of the English game took to him immediately.
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      He made an instant impact for Keegan's team, dubbed 'The Entertainers' due to their swashbuckling style, scoring a clutch of sensational goals.
      Ginola was seen as one of Newcastle's most creative players, and they raced into a lead at the top of the Premier League in the 1995/96 season, only to be overtaken by Manchester United after a late-season stumble in form.
      Another second place finish was secured the following season but Keegan had resigned half way through the campaign to be replaced by Kenny Dalglish, and Ginola was sold to Tottenham in July 1997.
      He was voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in 1999, and won the only trophy of his spell in England, the League Cup -- England's second most prestigious cup competition.
      In that season Ginola scored arguably his best goal, a slaloming run and finish in an FA Cup tie against Barnsley, one that perfectly encapsulated the touch of genius his boots contained.
      Spells at Aston Villa and Everton followed, as did adverts that played on his charm and charisma.
      One, for shampoo brand L'Oreal, included the line: "I'm a footballer, not a movie star," in a commercial that treated him exactly like a Hollywood heavyweight.
      Who is backing the bid?
      Ginola's tilt at football's top job is being funded by controversial bookmaker Paddy Power.
      The Irish firm has attracted criticism in the past for its conduct, offering odds in 2010 on which animal would be driven to extinction first by the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
      It has also got into hot water with its risqué approach to advertising.
      In 2010 a television ad that showed blind footballers mistakenly kicking a cat instead of the ball was the most complained about that year in the UK.
      At the 2012 World Cup, they agreed to pay an 80,000 euros fine handed to Nicklas Bendtner by UEFA, after the Danish footballer celebrated a goal by pulling down his shorts to reveal Paddy Power branded underwear.
      And an ad pledging "money back if he walks" relating to the trial of disgraced South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius received over 5,000 complaints and a reprimand from the UK's advertising regulator for bringing the industry into disrepute.
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      They also sponsored a series of visits to North Korea by former NBA star Dennis Rodman, though they withdrew their support after the last trip at the end of 2013.
      But the firm has for the last two years backed the 'Rainbow Laces' campaign, alongside gay rights charity Stonewall, to try and change attitudes towards homosexuality in football.
      As well as Paddy Power, helping manage Ginola's candidacy is M&C Saatchi PR, which counts some of the world's most powerful brands among their clients.
      But they will have their work cut out if they are to spread Ginola's message wide enough to have a real impact on the vote.
      The race for president
      Ginola retired from football in 2002 and has since worked as a pundit on French and UK television.
      He has also been involved with the charitable arm at his old club -- the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation -- and was an ambassador for England's doomed 2018 World Cup bid.
      His team are confident he is eligible to run for FIFA's presidency, as the rules state a contender "has to have played an active role in association football for two of the five years preceding his proposed candidature."
      However , Ginola also needs support from at least five member associations within FIFA to ensure he can run against Blatter, who faces competition from another independent Frenchman -- Jerome Champagne -- and Jordan's Prince Ali, who announced his intention to run last week.
      Blatter's stranglehold on FIFA was underlined when the Asian Football Confederation confirmed its intention to support him instead of Prince Ali, who is its vice-president.
      Blatter had repeatedly said his current term as president would be his last but had a rethink at the FIFA congress in June last year -- this despite the increasingly turbulent nature of his tenure.
      The Swiss has had to fend off allegations of corruption relating to the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup, awarded to Russia, and the 2022 instalment, given to Qatar.
      He enlisted U.S. lawyer Michael Garcia to probe claims that Qatar's former FIFA member Mohamed Bin Hammam used a multi-million dollar slush fund to buy support for the bid, charges the Qatar bid have strenuously denied.
      Garcia quit his role as chairman of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee after objecting to the way his report into the bidding process had been summarized by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert -- the organisation's independent ethics adjudicator.
      Bin Hammam was the only challenger to the president four years ago but withdrew from the race after he was suspended on bribery charges, leaving Blatter to run unopposed amid farcical scenes at the Congress in Zurich.
      The head of European soccer's governing body, Michel Platini, has called on Blatter to stand down, but announced he wouldn't be running for president.
      It remains to be seen whether Ginola, or any of his fellow candidates, can make a significant dent in the support Blatter holds among FIFA's members, and make the May elections anything more than another forgone conclusion.