Scan­dal-hit FIFA set to elect new leader

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

The Sepp Blat­ter era at FIFA is set to fi­nally end Fri­day when foot­ball's scan­dal-scarred world body picks a new pres­i­dent af­ter nine months of cri­sis. An elec­tion meet­ing de­signed to give FIFA a fresh start with a new leader could yet be over­shad­owed by its crim­i­nally cor­rupt past.

Vot­ers re­turn to Zurich this week un­sure who is the next tar­get of fed­eral law en­force­ment agen­cies in the United States and Switzer­land, who have sent FIFA into melt­down with waves of ar­rests, ex­tra­di­tions and guilty pleas. Swiss pros­e­cu­tors could de­cide this week is best to meet key wit­nesses in their widen­ing case. Many foot­ball of­fi­cials are mak­ing pos­si­bly their last work­ing trip to Switzer­land un­til May 2019, when next sched­uled FIFA elec­tion should be held in Zurich.

At the last elec­tion in May, Blat­ter won a fifth pres­i­den­tial term two days af­ter FIFA's fa­vored five- star ho­tel in Zurich and its own head­quar­ters were raided.

The pres­sure of crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions soon forced Blat­ter from his beloved FIFA in his 41st year on the pay­roll.

Now, lead­ers of FIFA's 209 mem­ber fed­er­a­tions visit the tiny Swiss city again to elect a suc­ces­sor for the now­banned 79-year-old who has been pres­i­dent since 1998. The win­ner will be just the fourth elected FIFA chief in more than 50 years.

Two front-run­ners have emerged in a five-can­di­date con­test: Asia's foot­ball leader, Sheikh Sal­man of Bahrain, and Gianni In­fantino, the Swiss gen­eral sec­re­tary of Euro­pean gov­ern­ing body UEFA.

The other can­di­dates are: For­mer FIFA vice pres­i­dent Prince Ali of Jor­dan, who lost to Blat­ter in May; for­mer FIFA of­fi­cial Jerome Cham­pagne of France; and South African busi­ness­man Tokyo Sexwale, once an in­mate of Robben Is­land prison with Nelson Man­dela. In­fantino ac­knowl­edged that po­lice could hit FIFA for fourth time in nine months.

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