CAF’s loss is world’s gain
Africa was the biggest loser at Friday’s Fifa presidential election after their preferred candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim alKhalifa of Bahrain lost out to Swiss-Italian contender Gianni Infantino. The announcement in Zurich makes it clear that Africa no longer wields deciding power over the outcome of Fifa presidential elections the way it used to.
In years gone by, Africa, the largest voting bloc in Fifa with 54 votes, held pulling power.
The continent’s football controlling body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), appears to have lost its clout after it had pledged full support for the sheikh.
The Asian Football Confederation had also claimed to back pre-poll favourite Salman, but it seems some of those countries did not give him their vote on Friday.
It appears CAF members were split on who to vote for, despite the decision taken as an African bloc to back the sheikh.
Head of Liberia’s football association Musa Bility claimed that nearly half of African countries would not vote for the sheikh. “I have been in contact with 26 African football association presidents and none will vote for Sheikh Salman,” he told the BBC earlier this month. This was evident in the outcome. At the beginning of the proceedings, it was confirmed to the extraordinary Fifa congress that 207 member associations were entitled to vote (the member associations of Indonesia and Kuwait could not vote because of their respective suspensions).
Uefa’s Infantino got 88 votes in the first round – three more than Sheikh Salman. Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan scored 27 and Frenchman Jérôme Champagne received seven.
Infantino won in the second round with 115 of the 207 votes, which was more than the required majority of 104, while Sheikh tallied 88 and Prince Ali four.
South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale realised he had no chance of winning and opted to take himself out of the firing line before voting could start.
The newly elected president faces an uphill battle to overhaul Fifa’s battered reputation as he seeks to restore the trust and credibility of the organisation following months of chaos and crisis.
The 45-year-old, who has been at Uefa for 15 years and its general secretary for the past seven, promised to restore the beautiful game to its former Fifa glory.
“I don’t agree that football is divided. Today was an election, not a war. I’m a candidate of the whole world and football. We have to build bridges, not walls,” he said in his acceptance speech.
SA Football Association president Danny Jordaan congratulated Infantino on his victory yesterday, saying he had his work cut out for him. However, he added, the new head’s “track record at Uefa speaks volumes if you look at how the Champions League and all other competitions have been run. He has the experience to turn Fifa around.”
Jordaan said issues Infantino needed to address included the balance of power among confederation and individual member associations and Fifa’s financial turnaround: “For the first time in many years, Fifa reported a loss of about R150 million and sponsors have withdrawn from Fifa. He has to turn that around and clean Fifa’s image.”
Speaking from Zurich yesterday, Sexwale said he could not comment on Infantino “as he is now the Fifa president and no longer a candidate”, adding protocol did not allow him to mention his reasons for stepping down from the campaign before the vote.
» Before Friday’s elections, the organisation endorsed reforms which would go a long way towards changing the battered image of the football world body ( see box).
MAN OF THE MOMENT Newly elected Fifa president Gianni Infantino is tasked with restoring the world body’s reputation