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
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.