CAF’s loss is world’s gain

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

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).

PHOTO: ALEXAN­DER HASSENSTEIN / GETTY IM­AGES

MAN OF THE MO­MENT Newly elected Fifa pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino is tasked with restor­ing the world body’s rep­u­ta­tion

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