SHEIKH SAL­MAN FA­VORED

Business Mirror - - SPORTS -

ZURICH—The sup­port of most na­tions in Africa and Asia and the back­ing of one of sports’ big­gest power bro­kers should be enough to put Sheikh Sal­man of Bahrain in charge of the world’s most pop­u­lar sport on Fri­day, as Fifa elects a pres­i­dent to ma­neu­ver the soc­cer body away from decades of cor­rup­tion.

Fifa of­fi­cials, del­e­gates and ob­servers told the As­so­ci­ated Press (AP) that sur­veys of vot­ers and con­fed­er­a­tions in­di­cate Sal­man had the most sup­port and could win a ma­jor­ity on the first bal­lot. A se­cond round of vot­ing will likely be nec­es­sary, un­less the other four can­di­dates con­cede. Fifa rules re­quire a two-thirds ma­jor­ity (138 of 207 fed­er­a­tions) on the first bal­lot, and a ma­jor­ity (104) on later rounds.

Sal­man seems on track to get the big­gest first-round tally, Fifa ob­servers and of­fi­cials not linked to any can­di­date told the AP on con­di­tion of anonymity. The of­fi­cials, who didn’t want their names used to avoid an­ger­ing vot­ers in the se­cret bal­lot, said Sal­man had re­ceived solid pledges of sup­port to get votes rang­ing from the “high-90s” to 117.

Fifa elec­tions are typ­i­cally se­cre­tive. Few vot­ers of­fer pub­lic opin­ions and many prom­ise votes to more than one can­di­date. “The only peo­ple you be­lieve are the ones who say they won’t vote for you,” US Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Su­nil Gu­lati once said.

But even sup­port­ers of Sal­man’s big­gest com­pe­ti­tion—Gianni In­fantino, the Swiss gen­eral sec­re­tary of Euro­pean gov­ern­ing body UEFA—were not say­ing on Thurs­day they thought he was lead­ing.

Sal­man would give the Asian re­gion its first pres­i­dent in Fifa’s 112-year his­tory. His elec­tion would ex­tend a run of suc­cess in Olympic and in­ter­na­tional soc­cer votes for can­di­dates and host cities sup­ported by Fifa and In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC) mem­ber Sheikh Ah­mad and his Kuwait-based vote-get­ting op­er­a­tion.

“He is a friend, he is a brother, he is a col­league, a men­tor,” Sal­man said of Ah­mad. “All of the above. We work to­gether.”

Ah­mad was key to de­liv­er­ing the IOC pres­i­dency to Thomas Bach in 2013, but has kept a lower pro­file pres­ence in this four-month cam­paign. He main­tained his pub­lic si­lence on Thurs­day evening, de­clin­ing to com­ment to the AP, even while mak­ing last-minute vis­its with Sal­man to the Zurich ho­tel shared by vot­ers from the Con­ca­caf and Ocea­nia re­gions— the non­aligned, “swing states” in a race be­tween can­di­dates from Asia, Africa and Europe.

Ah­mad joined Fifa’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee last year, af­ter years of build­ing coali­tions in the IOC. Though Ah­mad pub­licly re­jects the “king­maker” la­bel, he flashes a smile when asked about it.

The other can­di­dates are Prince Ali of Jor­dan, who con­ceded to Blat­ter af­ter a first-round vote last May; Jerome Cham­pagne of France; and Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa.

AP

SUR­VEYS of vot­ers and con­fed­er­a­tions in­di­cate Sheikh Sal­man has the

most sup­port and could win a ma­jor­ity on the first bal­lot.

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