Platini's aide joins crowded race to become FIFA president
The battle to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president was thrown wide open last night after Michel Platini's right-hand man made a dramatic last-minute entry into the race.
Gianni Infantino, UEFA's general secretary, was thrust into the most unpredictable of contests following an emergency meeting of the executive committee of European football's governing body.
UEFA were spurred into action following the decision by FIFA's ethics committee to suspend Platini for 90 days for soliciting a £1.3m suspected criminal payment from Blatter and begin an investigation that could result in both being banned for years.
The unprecedentedly crowded field - there were eight names in the ring when nominations closed last night - includes serious and credible candidates from Africa, Europe and Asia, which will test the strength of FIFA's traditional continental voting blocs and the alliances within it, perhaps to beyond their limits.
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, the Bahraini head of the Asian Football Confederation, formally announced his candidature yesterday and claimed to have backing from throughout out the vast Asian football world.
Musa Bility, head of the Liberian FA, also announced his nomination, despite previously having said the African Football Confederation would not back him.
Tokyo Sexwale, the South African businessman and former Robben Island inmate, declared his candidacy over the weekend.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan has been in the race for some time, having stood against Blatter in May.
The other candidates are Jérôme Champagne, a French former diplomat and former Blatter adviser, and David Nakhid, a former Trinidad player.
The contest could hardly be more of a mess, prompting International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to call on FIFA to change its statutes to allow a credible candidate from outside the world of football to lead reform of the organisation.
Currently, only people "active in football" for two of the last five years are allowed to stand. Instead, the contest will revolve around powerful figures from football's most powerful confederations, and the back-room deals struck between them.
Africa holds 56 of the 209 votes in the election, Europe 54 and Asia 47.
Platini had been favourite to win the contest, with the backing of his own UEFA confederation, and had been all but assured the support of Asia.
However, with nominations closing before any decision on Platini's future has been made by FIFA's ethics committee, not only has Asian Football been forced to enter its own candidate, so has UEFA, in the form of Infantino.
FIFA's ongoing crisis, and Platini's implication in it, means European football is not as united as it once was, making the election result very difficult to predict.
Sheikh Salman will receive the backing of the AFC, as well as much of Central and South American football. But, if Platini is restored to the race, he may pull out.
To win outright, a candidate requires two-thirds of the votes, which, if all eight men are still standing come February, will be all but impossible.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)
Beckenbauer apologises for ‘mistake’
Franz Beckenbauer has accepted responsibility for the German Football Association's "mistake" in making a payment of €6.7m to FIFA, but denied that the money was used to buy votes to secure the 2006 World Cup finals.
Germany's Spiegel magazine earlier this month unveiled details of the payment to the world governing body in 2005 which it claims was in return for votes to be awarded the right five years earlier to stage the tournament.
Beckenbauer, pictured abovde with former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, broke his silence yesterday regarding the alleged slush fund, declaring: "I, as the president of the organisation committee at the time, carry the responsibility for this mistake.
"In order to obtain financial support from FIFA, a suggestion by FIFA's finance commission was followed which, in hindsight, should have been rejected. But no votes were bought in order to win the 2006 World Cup."