Six candidates to succeed Blatter as FIFA deadline looms

AFP , Monday 26 Oct 2015

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter (Reuters)

With the deadline to submit bids for the FIFA presidency looming, reports that Asian football chief Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa has entered the race takes the overall number of candidates to succeed Sepp Blatter to six.

Monday is the final day for candidates looking to take over the scandal-hit governing body of the world game to officially lodge their bids to enter the election which is scheduled for February 26.

Erstwhile favourite Michel Platini, the UEFA president who is currently suspended by FIFA, remains a contender pending an examination of his candidacy when his ban ends on January 5.

The Frenchman, who has been a member of FIFA's Executive Committee since 2002, was suspended for 90 days on October 8 over a $2 million payment received from FIFA in 2011 without a written contract.

Another potential pitfall is that FIFA's electoral committee must judge the integrity of all candidates, and it remains to be seen if their evaluation will be influenced by Platini's suspension.

As it stands Platini looks set to have five rivals, although more contenders could come forward before the door slams shut at midnight on Monday.

The 49-year-old Bahraini royal Shaikh Salman, the head of the Asian Football Confederation since 2013, is the latest to come forward, with the Bahrain News Agency saying he registered his bid on Sunday.

Already familiar with FIFA from his role as a vice-president, he previously supported Platini's bid.

However, his chances of receiving the backing of European federations may not be helped by the fact he has been heavily criticised by human rights campaigners for his role in suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011.

Another heavyweight candidate to come forward is Tokyo Sexwale, the 62-year-old South African anti-apartheid campaigner who was once jailed alongside Nelson Mandela, serving 13 years of an 18-year jail term on Robben Island on terrorism charges.

His non-footballing background could serve as an asset but also as a handicap, given that it is the presidents of FIFA's 209 member federations who elect the president.

A member of South Africa's 2010 World Cup bid team, he serves on FIFA's anti-racism and anti-discrimination committee, likening racism to "a monster that is trying to infiltrate sporting fields". He is also a FIFA media committee member.

The outsiders

The Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, the 39-year-old brother of Jordan's King Abdullah, was the only adversary to Blatter at the election in May this year and can boast that he took the veteran Swiss to a second round of voting before withdrawing.

But on that occasion he had the backing of UEFA, something he is unlikely to get this time following his criticism of Platini as being too closely connected to a "flawed system".

French former diplomat Jerome Champagne, 57, spent 11 years working for FIFA between 1999 and 2010. Unlike during his previous bid in May, he has managed to get the five signatures from national associations needed to enter the race.

But he appears to lack the necessary clout, a problem also faced by David Nakhid, the former Trinidad and Tobago captain who once played for Swiss side Grasshoppers Zurich.

Champagne, who resides in Zurich, believes his long experience of working for FIFA does not represent a handicap to his bid, but he will not be backed by UEFA having also criticised his compatriot Platini.

"To carry out these reforms, we need someone who knows the organisation from the inside and that is the case with me. The 11 years that I spent there are not a handicap, on the contrary," he declared when announcing his bid.

It remains to be seen if any other names will come forward, with Brazil legend Zico struggling to get the five signatures required while UEFA may be considering a European Plan B who would withdraw should Platini eventually be cleared.

The situation should be clearer by Tuesday, when FIFA's electoral committee will study each bid and the integrity of the candidates, with the exception of Platini, who must wait until the end of his ban.

One name which will be missing will be that of South Korean businessman Chung Mong-Joon who announced on Monday that he was withdrawing because of a six-year ban imposed on him by FIFA'a ethics committtee.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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