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FIFA candidates head to Qatar – Sexwale says time for alliances


MIAMI, Jan 29, (Agencies): Four of the candidates for president of FIFA are heading to Qatar for meetings on Saturday, with one of them, South African Tokyo Sexwale, saying “the time for alliances is coming”.

The development suggests that electoral horse-trading might be about to begin in the battle to replace Sepp Blatter as head of football’s world governing body.

Spokesmen for the frontrunners, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Gianni Infantino, and for Sexwale confirmed to Reuters that they will be in Doha for a game on Saturday and to meet with Asian member associations of FIFA.

A spokesman for Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, also a candidate, later confirmed he would be travelling to Qatar for Saturday’s game – the final of the Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship between South Korea and Japan.

The other candidates, Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA deputy general secretary, declined to comment on whether he would also be in Qatar.

Speaking on South Africa’s Metro FM radio on Thursday, Sexwale confirmed that he would also be in Qatar as a “guest of Sheikh Salman” and hinted at eventual support for an Asian candidate.

“The time for alliances is coming. This is the new thing that I am saying. It is healthy, democratic and it is good.

“If I see that Tokyo’s chances are not good … I am still FIFA, but which president would I want? The time for alliances will come,” he said. That time would be before the Feb. 26 vote, he said.

“We are now talking, this one is talking to me, that one is talking to me. But who is talking? We are brothers, we are colleagues, we are comrades in arms,” Sexwale said.

One of the key power brokers in world sport, Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fadah Al-Sabah, told Reuters in October that he hoped his ally Sheikh Salman, the Asian football chief, and Infantino, the general secretary of the European football body, UEFA, would strike a deal before the vote.

“I hope there will not be a difficult situation, I hope there will be a coordination and we will find a solution,” he said. Both Salman and Infantino have denied any deal is in place.

Sexwale declined to discuss directly whether he would withdraw from the election but said he wanted to see an African or an Asian become the next president.

“There is this desperation of ‘withdraw’, ‘withdraw’. In whose interest?” he asked.

“Let me tell you my strategy … what is the bottom line? It is not Tokyo Sexwale,” he said. “The bottom line for me, and I am appealing to Europe, to European voters, with the support of Europe let’s have an Asian or African president. That is the bottom line.”

In the absence of the banned Michel Platini, the French Football Federation is supporting Gianni Infantino in his bid to become the next FIFA president.

Federation president Noel Le Graet said 11 of the 12 members of its executive committee have agreed to support the UEFA general secretary in the Feb. 26 election.

“Gianni has all the qualities required to succeed,” including “experience, talent, strength at work, and beliefs,” Le Graet said in a statement on Friday.

Infantino has been pledged support from a big majority of the 53 members in Europe, plus from CONMEBOL.

The other candidates are former FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France, and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale.

Le Graet also praised Infantino’s “ambitious program” to restore FIFA’s poor image.

Michel Platini’s appeal against his eight year ban from football will be heard by FIFA judges on Feb 15, a source close to the suspended UEFA president told AFP on Friday.

“The appeal will be held on February 15,” the source said.

The 60-year-old Frenchman was banned for eight years on December 21 over a two million Swiss franc ($2 million/1.8 million euro) payment that FIFA leader Sepp Blatter authorised for Platini. Blatter was also banned for eight years.

The appeal is to be heard by world football’s governing body’s appeals commission.

FIFA’s ethics committee has also said it will appeal against the sentence saying it is too lenient.

Anti-corruption investigators had originally sought a life ban from all football activity against Blatter and Platini.

Disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter will return to the headquarters of soccer’s governing body on Feb. 16 when his appeal against his ban from the sport will be heard, according to his advisor.

Blatter, head of soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body since 1998, was banned in December from all football-related activity for eight years by the ethics committee of FIFA, mired in the worst graft scandal its 111-year history.

“Mr Blatter will attend an appeal hearing at on Feb 16, at the home of FIFA, and we expect the decision as soon as possible,” his advistor Thomas Renggli told Reuters.

Blatter’s case will initially be dealt with by FIFA’s own Appeal Committee. Renggli said that, if he is unsuccessful, he will go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne.

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Sepp Blatter expects to attend the FIFA election on Feb. 26 even though his appeal against an eight-year ban is unlikely to be resolved by then.

Blatter’s spokesman, Thomas Renggli, told The Associated Press on Friday that the suspended FIFA president “should be present at the congress.”

Blatter and his lawyers believe FIFA rules mean only a meeting of the 209 member federations who elect a president can formally remove one.

“Only the congress, according to the statutes, can put Mr. Blatter out of his mandate,” Renggli said in a telephone interview.

Renggli also clarified the legal timetable for Blatter to challenge his ban by the FIFA ethics committee.

Blatter is scheduled to return to FIFA headquarters on Feb. 16 for an appeal committee hearing, and an immediate ruling is expected. However, if the appeal panel confirms Blatter’s ban, it could take weeks to write the detailed verdict, Renggli said.

Case documents are needed in hand before appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport can be filed and registered.

The FIFA ethics committee banned Blatter last month for a range of charges, including conflict of interest in approving $2 million of FIFA money for Michel Platini in 2011.

Platini is also appealing against his eight-year ban for accepting the money as uncontracted salary when working as Blatter’s presidential adviser from 1999-2002.

FIFA said Friday that Platini’s appeal is scheduled on Feb. 15. The UEFA president did not attend his ethics committee hearing at FIFA last month, and said through his lawyers that he was focused only on his expected process at CAS.

thics prosecutor Michael Garcia’s report into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

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