- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - Electing a new president will not dig FIFA out of the worst crisis in its 111-year history, the head of South American football said on Saturday.

“I don’t think that any candidate or situation can change everything. This is about team work,” Juan Angel Napout, the president of CONMEBOL, said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. “I believe that all the confederations have to unite and work together for one football - that’s called FIFA.”

Seven men are running to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president in an election on Feb. 26.

FIFA has been in turmoil since May, when American officials unsealed an indictment revealing decades of corruption linked to FIFA and its regional soccer bodies.

The indictments and arrests were followed days later by Blatter’s resignation. He has since been suspended from his post pending an investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee. Also suspended was Michel Platini, the president of UEFA, who was once seen as the favorite to succeed Blatter.

“The truth is that FIFA has no prestige,” Napout said, adding that he hoped its image could be changed by the confederations aiming for the common good.

“Recognizing the mistakes made by all is very important. This is a key moment in the history of football.”

The seven candidates standing for FIFA president are: Platini, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, Gianni Infantino, Tokyo Sexwale, Musa Bility, Jerome Champagne, and Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.

The reputation of CONMEBOL has been just as badly tarnished as that of FIFA.

Two former presidents - Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay - were among football and sports marketing officials charged by authorities in the United States. Leoz is under house arrest in Paraguay, and Figueredo is in jail in Switzerland awaiting extradition to the U.S.

Since the scandal broke, CONMEBOL has carried out audits and collaborated with the investigation by U.S. and Swiss authorities.

CONMEBOL and the North and Central America and the Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, also recently ended their relationships with marketing company Datisa, which has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of agreeing to pay $110 million in bribes to South American soccer officials. The end of that deal helped get the Copa America Centenario back on track. The tournament will be played in the U.S. in 2016.

The 10-member CONMEBOL has been supporting Platini in his campaign to become FIFA president. But Napout said the body would have to wait to see the result of the ethics investigation centered on Platini and Blatter before committing to a candidate.

Napout has met with Gianni Infantino, the general secretary of UEFA. Infantino is generally viewed as a stand-in for Platini.

CONMEBOL is expected to make a decision when it meets on Nov. 26-27 in Rio de Janeiro.

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Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao

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