Fifa Fri­day, here we go

Sexwale and the other hope­fuls have left their names in the hat, but the elec­tion is a two-horse race

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

Ahead of Fri­day’s Fifa pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, no one can yet say with ab­so­lute cer­tainty who will be put in charge of the world’s most pow­er­ful foot­ball or­gan­i­sa­tion.

All five can­di­dates have said they want Fifa to be trans­formed and made more trans­par­ent af­ter dis­graced for­mer pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter was banned for eight years.

Last year’s elec­tions in May ex­ploded into con­tro­versy af­ter the US govern­ment charged Fifa of­fi­cials with cor­rup­tion – a defin­ing mo­ment in the his­tory of the sport.

The mo­ment of truth has now ar­rived for Africa’s sole can­di­date, Tokyo Sexwale. De­spite fail­ing to get the back­ing of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Foot­ball, the South African busi­ness­man has in­sisted on press­ing on to Zurich – alone.

Sexwale will come up against Jor­dan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hus­sein, Gianni In­fantino from Switzer­land, French­man Jérôme Cham­pagne and Sheikh Sal­man Bin Ibrahim al-Khal­ifa of Bahrain ( see boxes).

It looks like a two-horse race be­tween In­fantino and the sheikh.

Euro­peans nat­u­rally sup­port Euro­pean can­di­dates and Arabs the Arab ones, but Africans have not en­dorsed the only African con­tender, which has put Sexwale in a tough po­si­tion.

In­fantino, the Union of Euro­pean Foot­ball (Uefa) gen­eral sec­re­tary, has the sup­port of his fed­er­a­tion, and some South Amer­i­can coun­tries have also thrown their weight be­hind him. Sheikh Sal­man has the back­ing of most Asian and African coun­tries.

De­spite be­ing the favourite to re­place Blat­ter, the sheikh is ac­cused of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions – some­thing he ve­he­mently de­nies.

This week, the Ger­man and English FAs came out in sup­port of In­fantino, who has pro­posed an ex­panded World Cup of 40 teams and more money for mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions.

The prince, who got most of his votes from Euro­pean coun­tries when he chal­lenged Blat­ter last year, is not among the favourites.

Sexwale and Cham­pagne are also un­likely to mount a se­ri­ous chal­lenge to In­fantino and the sheikh.

With 35 votes be­tween them, the Con­fed­er­a­tion of North, Cen­tral Amer­i­can and Caribbean As­so­ci­a­tion Foot­ball mem­bers has the po­ten­tial to swing the elec­tion.

A can­di­date with two-thirds of the vote in the first round (139 out of 209) wins out­right. If not, vot­ing goes to a se­cond round, in which a sim­ple ma­jor­ity is enough to win.

In his wel­come note to the del­e­gates, act­ing Fifa pres­i­dent Issa Hay­a­tou said: “This is a land­mark oc­ca­sion in the his­tory of Fifa, and it comes at a cru­cial time as we fo­cus on the hard work of restor­ing cred­i­bil­ity and sta­bil­ity af­ter a dif­fi­cult and chal­leng­ing pe­riod.

“At this congress, our mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions will vote for a new Fifa pres­i­dent, open­ing a new era for Fifa and the fu­ture of foot­ball around the world. Fifa was cre­ated to pro­mote, gov­ern and de­velop foot­ball. At this ex­tra­or­di­nary congress, we have the chance to act to­gether as a team to lay the foun­da­tions for a new way for­ward, so that we can all turn our full at­ten­tion once again to that ex­cit­ing mis­sion that is at the heart of our game.”

For the game, for the world, let’s hope he gets his wish.

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