Jerome Champagne

FIFA presidential election: Infantino expects ‘majority’ of African votes

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) Gianni Infantino expects more than half of Africa’s 54 countries to back him in the FIFA presidential election on Friday.

[ FOLLOW: The latest FIFA election news ]

“I will make an impact (in Africa). I will have a majority of the African votes,” the UEFA secretary general said in Cape Town on Monday on a short-notice visit to see where Nelson Mandela was jailed during apartheid.

Infantino’s claim, if true, means most African countries will defy their continent’s soccer leadership. The Confederation of African Football executive committee has formally endorsed Infantino’s main opponent, Sheikh Salman of Bahrain.

Infantino said his belief came from private visits to Africa, FIFA’s largest confederation by number of voting countries, and a crucial battleground for votes.

[ MORE: Blatter says he won’t endorse any of the candidates ]

“In the discussions I’ve had with many African (soccer) presidents, I can say I feel very confident,” he said.

Infantino visited Robben Island, the prison where Mandela was jailed during apartheid, on the invitation of fellow FIFA candidate Tokyo Sexwale. South African businessman Sexwale, also a former political prisoner on the island, said he invited all four other candidates, but Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, Prince Ali of Jordan, and Frenchman Jerome Champagne couldn’t find time in their schedules just four days before the election in Zurich.

Infantino and Sheikh Salman have emerged as favorites to succeed Sepp Blatter in the vote forced by the corruption scandal at FIFA. Salman has the backing of Asia, while Infantino has the support of Europe.

Appearing together at a news conference, Infantino and Sexwale called the South African visit symbolic, but the importance of Africa’s votes to Infantino’s chances was perhaps underlined by his decision to make the last-minute trip. Having received the invitation just a few days ago, the Swiss arrived in South Africa from Geneva on Monday morning, and was making the 13-hour flight back to Switzerland on Monday night.

[ MORE: Qatari official says World Cup drunks will be treated “very gently” ]

Sexwale has struggled to gain support in his campaign and, when his home African continent snubbed him in favor of Salman, he denied he will withdraw before the election.

For Infantino, appearing alongside Sexwale was bound to lead to speculation he was seeking an endorsement from one of his opponents.

But Infantino said there were no deals on the table yet.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said.

Sexwale, however, said he was “a realist,” and the time would come to talk to his opponents should, as expected, he fail to gain significant support in the election.

“Towards the finishing line there will be alliances,” Sexwale said. “I am open to alliances, I am open to negotiations.”

Even without Blatter, FIFA election shenanigans continue

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LONDON (AP) FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa dismissed a rival’s complaint about his election conduct as “entirely inaccurate” and warned on Saturday against public squabbling.

[ FOLLOW: All the latest FIFA news ]

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein has accused Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman of a “blatant attempt to engineer a bloc vote” by signing a pact between the Asian Football Confederation he leads and its counterpart in Africa. Jordanian federation president Prince Ali on Friday asked FIFA’s election watchdog to investigate whether election rules were broken.

But in a statement on Saturday, titled “An unnecessary spat between FIFA candidates,” Sheikh Salman insisted the Asia-Africa pact was being worked on months before he decided to run in the Feb. 26 election to replace Sepp Blatter.

“I am astonished about my friend’s comments, which are wholly dismissed and entirely inaccurate,” Sheikh Salman said.

[ MORE: New “Laws of the Game” approved, to be implemented at EURO 2016 ]

The Bahraini royal said that talks about the “memorandum of understanding” started when the general secretaries of the Asia and African governing bodies met in May. He noted that the AFC has similar cooperation agreements with FIFA and two other regional bodies: UEFA and CONCACAF.

“As AFC president, one of my duties is to seek development-knowhow sharing opportunities for the AFC around the world and to establish solid ties with like-minded football professionals,” the sheikh said.

[ MORE: World Cup votes sparked investigation that downed Blatter, Platini ]

Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali are competing against UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne, and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale in a five-man election field.

Prince Ali was beaten in May’s presidential election by Blatter, who announced resignation plans the following week in the wake of criminal investigations into FIFA officials, and was later banished from world soccer for eight years by the ethics judge.

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FIFA: Five candidates approved, one denied for corruption, one in limbo

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There will be either five or six candidates standing in February’s election of a successor for Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.

A quintet of candidates have passed muster, a sixth was denied and Michel Platini will have to wait to see whether he’ll get the opportunity to run after his suspension is over.

[ MORE: World Cup qualifying has not traditionally been a cakewalk for the USMNT ]

Musa Bility of Liberia is the man who will not get the chance to run, and it seems FIFA isn’t willing to risk any bad publicity from its candidates. In 2013, Bility used confidential documents in an attempt to prove current acting president Issa Hayatou as corrupt.

From the BBC:

“I reject this and think it’s unfortunate,” he added. “My decision to fight CAF at the time was a genuine attempt to change African football and prevent rules from being arbitrarily violated.

“I am awaiting the review by my team of lawyers to determine my next course of action.”

Unless there’s something more to it — isn’t there always with FIFA? — that feels a tad harsh on Bility. Confidential is confidential, I guess.

Meanwhile, the suspended Platini could get to run against the remaining five candidates if his suspension is lifted before the election, though it’s debatable whether FIFA would let him get that far given the Bility ruling.

Still running are Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, president of the Jordan Football Association, former FIFA exec Jerome Champagne, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, and South African government minister Tokyo Sexwale. Infantino has said he won’t run if Platini makes the post-suspension grade.

Two more enter FIFA presidential race

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Michel Platini (right) is unlikely to be FIFA’s next president, but his “right hand man” could fit the bill.

UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino has joined the race for FIFA’s spot, and Asian Football Federation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa (above left) has also announced his entry into the race.

The deadline to join the race is 7 p.m. ET tonight (11 p.m GMT).

[ MORE: All of PST’s FIFA news and updates ]

That makes it nine candidates in the mix to replace Sepp Blatter. Each needs the backing of five federations.

Joining Platini, Infantino, and Salman are are South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan, former Trinidad and Tobago international David Nakhid, former Fifa deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne,  and Liberia FA president Musa Bility. Former Nigeria standout Segun Odegbami has said he will stand for election, but not filed.

The election will be held Feb. 26, 2015.

So… Who will be FIFA’s first new president in nearly two decades?

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Sepp Blatter says he’s leaving his post as FIFA president, and soccer’s governing body says the soonest it could hold a proper election is December.

So there’s the why and then (maybe) when for FIFA’s regime change.

As for the who, that’s another story.

[ MORE: All the FIFA news you need ]

A pair of candidates have already announced their intentions to run for FIFA’s highest office. One is Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, Blatter’s rival in Friday’s election, and the other is Luis Figo, who dropped out of the election citing a rigged process.

Who else? Well, we’ll give you the names already making the rounds and venture some guesses as well.

Michel Platini — UEFA’s president is one of the most powerful men in football and would certainly carry a good deal of weight with voters should he decide to toss his hat in the ring. The 59-year-old Frenchman has been a vocal opponent of Blatter and proponent of reform.

Sunil Gulati — The Indian-born and American-raised Gulati raised eyebrows with his confident backing of Prince Ali, and carries connections to two gigantic nations. His work in guiding U.S. Soccer will resonate abroad, but could he top a European candidate?

Figo —  Yes, he’s green, but the former superstar has not been afraid to rock the boat. His speech after pulling out of the election was both biting and brilliant.

source: Getty Images

Michael van Praag (left) — The head of Dutch football also pulled out of last week’s election. Knowing that Blatter is out, will van Praag still have the appetite for the job?

Issa Hayatou — You could see Blatter and his contingency get behind the Cameroonian, who is in his third decade as boss of the Confederation of African Football. He’d fit the underling model, despite running against Blatter in 2002, and wouldn’t necessarily inspire the populace, but Blatter won, too, and would certainly like to wink at his detractors by installing a clone of sorts.

Jerome Champagne — Pulled out of the election well before the others after failing to land the minimum backing of five national football federations, saying he felt he was conspired against for being too independent.

Ted Howard — CONCACAF’s general secretary, this American is viewed as a more likely candidate than Gulati despite being better known in the business world than soccer circles.

source: Getty Images
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