- Associated Press - Friday, November 27, 2015

GENEVA (AP) - FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman received an endorsement Friday from his executive committee colleagues at the Asian soccer confederation.

Three of the five FIFA candidates claim support from Asian voters, but the AFC said its 24-member executive committee unanimously backed Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family.

“The members of the AFC executive committee passed a resolution urging all member associations to unite behind and support the AFC president Sheikh Salman in his efforts to be elected as the first FIFA president from Asia,” the continental soccer body said.

Asia has 46 of the 209 voting federations in the FIFA election to succeed Sepp Blatter on Feb. 26.

“It is a big support for my campaign, as well as an honor for me, to have the endorsement and full backing of the AFC executive committee,” Sheikh Salman said in the AFC statement. “It also sends a strong message that Asia is behind one candidate.”

However, Asia’s soccer leader currently does not have the continent’s full support.

Rival candidate Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan is supported by his home country and other Asian voters. Jerome Champagne of France claims support from the Palestinian federation, which he has advised in recent years and has a delegate on the AFC executive committee.

The other candidates are South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale and UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, who has worked closely in recent months with Sheikh Salman and FIFA powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait.

Infantino got further encouragement late Thursday with support from the 10-nation South American confederation.

Leaders of FIFA’s six continental governing bodies have traditionally directed their members how to vote in FIFA presidential elections, but it is unclear how effective they are.

FIFA election monitor Domenico Scala said this month that bloc voting was allowed but he would investigate any “undue pressure” put on individual voters.

“When I know, I can take action,” Scala said at FIFA last week. “If the confederation president threatens a federation saying, ‘You’re not going to get funds, you’re not going to get any (committee) seats any more,’ that is direct threatening.”

Confederations must also declare if they give money to pay a candidate’s election costs, Scala said.

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