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Africa v Europe as Sexwale, Champagne lobby for South Africa's support in FIFA bid

Reuters , Saturday 19 Dec 2015
Tokyo Sexwale
Tokyo Sexwale, chairman of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, gestures during a news conference with Israel Football Association president Ofer Eini (not seen) and Jibril Al Rajoub (not seen), President of the Palestinian Football Association, in the West Bank city of Jericho December 16, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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It was Africa versus Europe in Johannesburg on Saturday as Tokyo Sexwale and Jerome Champagne lobbied southern Africa's soccer bosses for support to become the next head of the scandal-ridden soccer body FIFA.

The South African apartheid-era political prisoner turned multimillionaire and the former French diplomat laid out their plans to reform FIFA to the Confederation of Southern African Football Association's (COSAFA) annual general meeting.

The two men hoping to succeed suspended FIFA head Sepp Blatter presented a show of solidarity as they recalled working together on South Africa's successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup tournament.

World soccer's governing body is traversing the worst corruption scandal in its over 100-year history and Blatter faces a Swiss criminal investigation. He denies any wrongdoing.

But the show of unity began to show cracks when Sexwale pointed out that FIFA had never had an African president.

"The score is 111 to zero against Africa. For 111 years FIFA has not had an African," said Sexwale, adding that Europe would have pulled out of FIFA if the situation had been reversed.

"I am not here to keep quiet like a slave and pretend that these things are not happening," he added, raising the emotional temperature in the small hotel conference room.

Champagne, who served as a FIFA executive for nearly a decade until 2010, responded by saying the choice was more about experience and ability than nationality.

"It's not matter of origin," he said. "It's a matter of knowing exactly of how to manage the structure."

"Because I was pushed out of FIFA by a coalition of people who are all today suspended, I know exactly what needs to changed. And that is the experience I can provide," he said with growing passion in his voice.

The air of unity returned toward the end of the news conference, with Sexwale quipping he would name Champagne as his general secretary if the Frenchman promised to do the same.

Prince Ali Hussein of Jordan, another candidate, addressed the COSAFA meeting via video link. He promised to have African leaders in his team if he won the presidency.

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