Infantino upbeat about African FIFA votes

CAPE TOWN: FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino said Monday he hoped to get most of Africa’s 54 national votes, despite the Confederation of African Football (CAF) endorsing Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa.
Infantino made the claim after being given a guided tour of Robben Island by South African candidate Tokyo Sexwale, who was jailed on the island under apartheid rule along with Nelson Mandela.
“I feel very confident of having some support in Africa... I think I will have the majority of African votes,” Infantino, from Switzerland, told reporters at Cape Town airport after his visit.
“I believe FIFA needs a democratic election by a proper transparent process,” he said.
“That is why I didn’t like talk about deals behind closed doors. I have nothing to hide about coming here.”
Sexwale, who is seen as a rank outsider in the race, described himself as “a realist’ and “open to alliances.”
“An election is a chance,” he said. “In this game... you never know what’s going to come out.”
Infantino, the secretary general of the European confederation UEFA, spoke ahead of Friday’s vote to replace Sepp Blatter, who was suspended due to a raft of corruption allegations.
Infantino is widely seen as a front-runner after winning the endorsements from the executive committees of UEFA and the South American confederation (CONMEBOL).
Bahrainian royal Sheikh Salman is seen by some as the favorite, after he won the backing from the Asian confederation he leads, and from the African confederation.
Former FIFA deputy secretary general Jerome Champagne of France and Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al Hussein are also in the race.
Africa often plays the role of kingmaker in FIFA with 54 votes, the most of any of the world’s regional governing bodies, though each country votes individually.
While on Robben Island, Sexwale helped run the Makana Football Association, an informal league of political prisoners.
His office said he had invited all four rivals to the island to “showcase the challenging and appalling conditions under which political prisoners played football.”
The other candidates were not present on Monday.

Champagne complains

FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne has made a formal complaint claiming two rivals supported by continental governing bodies have an unfair advantage.
Champagne urged FIFA election monitors to cancel 20 extra passes for “observers” from UEFA and seven for the Asian soccer confederation to enter the election hall.
In a letter seen by The Associated Press, he writes that UEFA and the AFC plan “to swamp the Congress hall with confederation employees able to access” voters.
Champagne, who has run his own campaign, says allowing extra accreditations would “betray a gross violation of the principle of fairness.”

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