Thursday 29 September 2016

Potential eight-man line-up in battle for FIFA job

Graham Dunbar in Geneva

Published 28/10/2015 | 02:30

FIFA's logo is seen at its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
FIFA's logo is seen at its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Deadline day to enter the FIFA presidential election saw surprise entries and a potential eight-man line-up.

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Among late tactical changes, two unexpected additions were Gianni Infantino - the right-hand man of suspended Uefa President Michel Platini, whose own entry will likely be barred - and Liberian soccer leader Musa Bility, whose campaign seemed hopelessly stalled in August.

The list of contenders to succeed Sepp Blatter leading the corruption-hit world soccer governing body grew longer than expected and will surely be cut before the February 26 ballot.

A further twist stopped the race reaching nine as a former FIFA secretary general, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, told The Associated Press he decided not to run despite getting the required nominations from five of the 209 member federations.

Backers

Just over one month ago, Platini was a strong front- runner in a small field with key backers in Asia and the Americas.

That changed on September 25 when the former France great was implicated in a Swiss criminal investigation.

Platini's bloc of support seemed sure to transfer to Asia's soccer confederation president, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.

The Bahraini royal family member duly filed his nomination papers on Monday and is likely the current favourite, yet his bid has exposed himself and his home country to exposure for their human rights record.

Sheikh Salman's entry has already been criticised by rights groups who urged FIFA's election committee to reject him as a candidate when it oversees integrity checks in the next two weeks.

Questions have been raised over whether Sheikh Salman, as the Bahrain Football Association president in 2011, adequately protected national team players after some took part in pro-democracy protests. Some players say they were tortured while detained by government forces.

Other probable candidates vying for the FIFA job include Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne and David Nakhid, a former player from Trinidad and Tobago.

Irish Independent

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