Africa vote could hold key to FIFA presidential election

Thu Feb 4, 2016 7:35pm EST
 
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By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - African soccer officials will decide on Friday which of FIFA's presidential candidates they will back as the campaign to replace Sepp Blatter at the helm of the sport's troubled ruling body reaches the home straight.

With 54 voting nations, Africa's choice at a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda will be crucial in the ballot of 209 member associations on Feb. 26 in Zurich.

FIFA is voting for a new leader amidst its biggest ever corruption scandal which has seen 41 people and entities indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Leading contenders Gianni Infantino, the Swiss general secretary of European soccer's ruling body UEFA, and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, are both in Kigali ahead of the CAF meeting.

CAF president Issa Hayatou, who is also FIFA's acting chief, told French newspaper L'Equipe his confederation was originally behind UEFA president Michel Platini before the Frenchman was banned from soccer for eight years by FIFA's Ethics Committee.

"If Platini had been a candidate Africa would have voted for him that is sure," said Cameroonian Hayatou, who raised the prospect of Bahraini royal Salman being the preferred choice.

"If we decide to support Salman is it a crime? Who can prevent us from doing this?" he said.

South African Tokyo Sexwale and Frenchman Jerome Champagne are also expected to be in Rwanda but fellow FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan will not be attending, his spokesman told Reuters.   Continued...

 
Gianni Infantino arrives at the South American Football confederation CONMEBOL for a meeting with officials in Luque, Paraguay, January 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Mario Valdez