Diego Maradona: FIFA president Sepp Blatter is a 'freezer'

    (CNN)He's up for re-election to continue running world football, but Sepp Blatter's bid to stay on as FIFA president has fallen on deaf ears as regards Argentine great Diego Maradona.

    "We are talking about the most beautiful sport and most passionate in the world," Maradona told CNN anchor Becky Anderson in an exclusive interview, "and it's been directed by a freezer, someone who should live in a block of ice."
    FIFA's current head has held the position for four terms since 1998, and is running against former Portuguese international Luis Figo, as well as Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, whose campaign is backed by Maradona.
      "Rats can get anywhere in the world; he is the president of FIFA," added Maradona, who went on to dub football's governing body "a mafia."
      Maradona: FIFA run like a "mafia"
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      FIFA under Blatter's leadership has been mired in controversy since its decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
      Criticism of the organization reached a fever pitch when the man hired to investigate the bidding process for those World Cups, American lawyer Michael Garcia, resigned in protest last year, unhappy that the published summary did not accurately reflect his findings.
      Africa is likely to be a bedrock of support for Blatter in his re-election bid, but Maradona cited the poor conditions for that continent's footballing youth as evidence of FIFA's current failings.
      "I was talking to Samuel Eto [who currently plays for Italian Serie A side Sampdoria] and he told me that they are playing in the same old pitch where he used to play when he was seven," said Maradona. "So, after all the World Cups that we [Cameroon] played, what happened to all that money that was collected?"
      "I want transparency," said the Argentine, who hoisted the World Cup trophy after beating West German in the 1986 final. "I want to finish with the corrupt contracts in FIFA."
      Blatter ran unopposed in 2011, after his most vocal opponent, Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar withdrew just before the vote. One month later, the Qatari was banned from all football activities for life by a FIFA panel.
      Blatter had stated that he would not run again after 2011, but changed his mind. He is a strong frontrunner when FIFA's 209 members go to the polls on May 29.
      FIFA was not immediately available for comment when contacted to provide a response to Maradona's interview, but earlier this year, responding to criticism of his tenure of office, Blatter told CNN, "You know it is impossible to make everybody happy.
      "If I would have only positive press then it would not be good. And I like criticism as long as the criticism is... I would say fair criticism.
      "I like the discussion to go with that. But listen I've been there such a long time now and I just want to finish that," he added.
      Maradona spends much of his time in Dubai these days, and voiced his opinion for a unified 2022 World Cup in the Gulf Arab states, which -- apart from slated host Qatar -- include the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
      "Of course it would have been better, the distances are not huge," he said. "It would have been way more productive for the Arab world. But it seems like Blatter only has friends in Qatar."
      Maradona knows the region well.
      Three years ago, he was sacked by United Arab Emirates club Al-Wasl after only 14 months in charge.
      He arrived in Dubai on a lucrative contract in May 2011, but could only manage to take Al-Wasl to eighth place in the 12-team UAE Pro-League -- which resulted in the club's board resigning.
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      Maradona was not given the chance to continue his two-year tenure by the new board.
      He is one of the greatest players in soccer history, having helped Napoli win two Italian league titles after a difficult two-year stay at Barcelona -- both clubs signed him for record fees.
      But his career was marred by controversy over drug use -- he was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine -- and he suffered from subsequent health problems.
      Maradona's parting words crystalized his sentiment towards Blatter: "I only ask God, and my mom that is in heaven, that I can have the opportunity to get this man out of FIFA and give the people what they deserve."
      Meanwhile FIFA has described a claim made by an ESPN documentary that Blatter is avoiding traveling to the U.S. due to an FBI investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process as "absolutely untrue."
      "FIFA has never received any request from the American law enforcement," said a FIFA statement sent to CNN.
      "During his mandate period, the President tries to visit as many of the 209 Member Associations as possible.‎
      "As the President travels extensively, we need to check precisely when he last visited the U.S., but his travels are not restricted by any alleged fears."