Van Praag could split vote as Africa backs Blatter
By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) - Dutchman Michael Van Praag could split the anti-Sepp Blatter vote in this year's FIFA presidential election with Africa set to back the incumbent Swiss all the way to a fifth term of office.
Two days before the deadline for nominations closes on Thursday, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan welcomed Van Praag's candidacy even though it could damage his own.
Five men have declared an interest in running, although only Van Praag, the 67-year-old head of the Dutch FA, and Prince Ali, the Asian vice-president on the FIFA executive committee, look like getting the necessary backing of five national associations to qualify as official candidates.
Jerome Champagne, the former FIFA deputy secretary general who was the first to declare just over a year ago, is struggling to get support while the campaigns of former France international David Ginola and agent Mino Raiola look like nothing more than publicity stunts.
With the election due to take place at the FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, the 78-year-old Blatter remains the overwhelming favorite to secure a fifth term in office.
Despite years of controversy, Blatter retains a global power base and Kwesi Nyantakyi, the president of the Ghana Football Association and a Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee member, said the majority of Africa's 53 countries will be voting for him.
"Africa is solidly behind Blatter. You will find he is very popular on the continent," he told Reuters.
"The continent is united behind him," added former South African FA president Molefi Oliphant, who still serves on the CAF executive. Continued...