Most UEFA associations back Infantino for FIFA presidency

Fri Jan 22, 2016 1:39pm EST
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By Brian Homewood

NYON, Switzerland (Reuters) - Gianni Infantino's bid for the FIFA presidency with the aim of leading the world soccer body out of the worst graft scandal in its history was boosted on Friday when the Swiss lawyer won "overwhelming" backing from Europe's football associations.

Infantino, general secretary of European soccer's ruling body UEFA and initially seen as a stop-gap candidate, said he was confident of winning the Feb. 26 election and dispelled the suggestion of a deal that would involve him withdrawing.

The 45-year-old entered the race to succeed disgraced president Sepp Blatter after UEFA head and FIFA presidential candidate Michel Platini was suspended pending an ethics investigation in October.

But when Platini was banned for eight years from all football activities by FIFA's ethics committee last month, Infantino became a candidate in his own right and has since been travelling the world canvassing votes.

UEFA also said in a statement it would not schedule a presidential election to replace Platini until the Frenchman's appeal process had been completed.

"We hope his name is cleared and that he can return to the European football family as quickly as possible," it said.

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UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino gestures during a news conference after an Executive Committee meeting at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, January 22, 2016.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse