Exclusive: FIFA candidates head to Qatar as Sexwale says 'time for alliances'

Thu Jan 28, 2016 2:53pm EST
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By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - Four of the candidates for president of FIFA are heading to Qatar for meetings on Saturday, with one of them, South African Tokyo Sexwale, saying "the time for alliances is coming".

The development suggests that electoral horse-trading might be about to begin in the battle to replace Sepp Blatter as head of football's world governing body.

Spokesmen for the frontrunners, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Gianni Infantino, and for Sexwale confirmed to Reuters that they will be in Doha for a game on Saturday and to meet with Asian member associations of FIFA.

A spokesman for Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, also a candidate, later confirmed he would be traveling to Qatar for Saturday's game - the final of the Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship between South Korea and Japan.

The other candidates, Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA deputy general secretary, declined to comment on whether he would also be in Qatar.

Speaking on South Africa's Metro FM radio on Thursday, Sexwale confirmed that he would also be in Qatar as a "guest of Sheikh Salman" and hinted at eventual support for an Asian candidate.

"The time for alliances is coming. This is the new thing that I am saying. It is healthy, democratic and it is good.

"If I see that Tokyo's chances are not good ... I am still FIFA, but which president would I want? The time for alliances will come," he said. That time would be before the Feb. 26 vote, he said.   Continued...

Tokyo Sexwale  gestures during a news conference in the West Bank city of Jericho December 16, 2015.  REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman