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Sunday , December 4 2022

Candidates waiting for FIFA to rubber-stamp presidential bids – Sheikh Salman attacks nasty lies

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Eight Official FIFA Presidential Candidates - Prince Ali, Platini, Champagne, Nakhid, Sexwale, Sheikh Salman, Infantino and Bility
Eight Official FIFA Presidential Candidates – Prince Ali, Platini, Champagne, Nakhid, Sexwale, Sheikh Salman, Infantino and Bility

LAUSANNE, Oct 27, (AFP): The eight candidates to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president were still waiting to have their bids validated by the electoral committee of world football’s governing body on Tuesday after the deadline for hopefuls to come forward passed.

FIFA’s electoral committee met on Tuesday to study each bid and the integrity of the those running, but the official list of candidates for the February 26 election may not be made public until Wednesday, a source close to FIFA told AFP.

Meanwhile, one of the contenders, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa of Bahrain moved to deny claims he had been involved in the torture of footballers.

And another hopeful, the 62-year-old South African anti-apartheid campaigner Tokyo Sexwale, launched his campaign as he promised to bring “transparency and accountability” to the scandal-tainted governing body of world football.

Sexwale and the Bahraini royal Shaikh Salman, the head of the Asian Football Confederation, confirmed their bids on Monday as UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino also entered the running to blow the race wide open.

The 49-year-old Shaikh Salman can expect widespread support from the vast Asian Confederation, but he has already had to defend himself against criticism by human rights campaigners who have accused him of involvement in the arrest and torture of footballers when he was head of the Bahrain Football Association.

“These are false, nasty lies that have been repeated again and again in the past and the present,” he told the BBC in an interview.

“I cannot deny something that I haven’t done.

“Such accusations are not just damaging, it’s really hurting. Some people have agenda on their table.”

Shaikh Salman was head of the Bahrain FA in 2011 when scores of people were killed as security forces in the country put down mass Shia-led protests calling for reforms.

Rights groups say he helped identify players involved in the protests and did nothing to protect them from abuses.

Sexwale, who was once jailed alongside Nelson Mandela, serving 13 years of an 18-year sentence on Robben Island on terrorism charges, vowed to “follow the money” to rid football’s ruling body of corruption after recent scandals.

“What has been broken in FIFA is the ability to follow money,” he told a press conference.

“It is about good financial management, control systems, making sure things are done and there is a lot of transparency and accountability.

“That is what I would like to bring to FIFA,” added Sexwale, now a politician and millionaire businessman who serves on FIFA’s anti-racism and anti-discrimination committee.

Infantino’s decision to stand, and the backing he has received from UEFA, has cast doubt over Michel Platini’s campaign to replace his former ally Blatter, who announced in June that he would step down just days after being re-elected for a fifth term.

The UEFA president is currently serving a 90-day ban as investigations continue into a 1.8 million euro ($2 million) payment received from FIFA in 2011 without a written contract.

Erstwhile favourite Platini officially remains a contender pending an examination of his candidacy when his ban ends on January 5.

But Swiss lawyer Infantino’s announcement casts doubt over Platini’s support within UEFA and poses the question as to whether Infantino is being presented as a Plan B in case the former France star is prevented from standing.

FIFA’s electoral committee must judge the integrity of all candidates, meaning Platini’s bid could be compromised by his ban.

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

Then there is 57-year-old French former diplomat Jerome Champagne, who spent 11 years working for FIFA between 1999 and 2010.

Unlike his previous bid in May, he has managed to get the necessary five signatures from national associations.

David Nakhid, the former Trinidad and Tobago captain, and Liberian FA chief Musa Bility have also entered the race.

Eight Official FIFA Presidential Candidates

LONDON, Oct 27, (AFP): With Monday’s deadline reached, AFP Sport profiles the eight officially declared candidates for the FIFA presidency.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein

The 39-year-old brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah was a member of his country’s special forces, specialising in parachute jumps. The prince was on the FIFA executive from 2011 until this year when he first challenged Sepp Blatter for the presidency. Prince Ali championed the cause of allowing women to play football in a hijab. He has repeatedly demanded greater transparency within FIFA and promised to increase the share of revenues sent back to the national associations. He has condemned the “backroom deals” that he says are one of the biggest causes of FIFA’s long-standing troubles. The prince has been one of the main advocates of releasing the Garcia report into the 2010 votes that gave the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Michel Platini

One of the greatest footballers of all time and until he was implicated in a Swiss criminal investigation into FIFA, one of the sport’s most skillful politicians. After being co-chairman of France’s 1998 World Cup organisation, he became president of UEFA in 2007 and has since been re-elected twice. But the Frenchman’s 90-day suspension while FIFA investigates a 1.8 million euro ($2 million) payment from the world body without a written contract has seriously hit the chances of the man who was once hot favourite. Platini, 60, made his name as a sports administrator by pressing for football’s riches and decision-making to be spread between members.

Jerome Champagne

The 57-year-old was a French diplomat in Oman, Los Angeles and Brazil before becoming a protocol advisor for the 1998 World Cup organisers. He joined FIFA in 1999 and rose to become deputy secretary general under Sepp Blatter, leaving in 2010. “I am not ashamed of the FIFA years,” he told AFP. Though not a footballer, Champagne was a freelance journalist for the magazine France Football. Champagne had tried to challenge Blatter in the election this year but could not get the required five signatures from national associations to enter. He has vowed to bring in greater transparency, stronger ethical standards and modernise the world body’s administration.

David Nakhid

The mystery candidate in the FIFA race. Nakhid, 51, was captain of Trinidad and Tobagao and played club football with Grasshoppers in Switzerland, Waregem in Belgium and New England Revolution in the United States. His main administrative post has been running his own chain of football academies. Nakhid said it is time for football’s power to be moved away from Europe and that it will need a former player to reform the world body. “I cannot be reckless. I am committed to transformation that is fair and even-handed and will deal with all or any breaches and improprieties,” he said.

Tokyo Sexwale

The South African anti-apartheid campaigner, who entered the race on Saturday, wants to make history by becoming the first African to head football’s governing body in its 111-year history. A former politician and one of his country’s wealthiest men Sexwale, 62, was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela. He served 13 years of an 18-year jail term on Robben Island on terrorism charges. 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.

Shaikh Salman Bin Brahim Al Khalifa

The soft-spoken Bahraini royal took over an Asian confederation in turmoil in 2013 after Mohamed bin Hammam was kicked out in disgrace, but he now enjoys an iron grip on the body. Enjoys strong backing from Kuwaiti powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah, one of the most influential figures in world sport and a major player in both FIFA and the Olympic movement. This year, Shaikh Salman was re-elected unopposed for a full, four-year term and became a FIFA vice president into the bargain. But he has been dogged by allegations that he was complicit in Bahrain’s harsh crackdown on pro-democracy activists in 2011, charges he denies.

Gianni Infantino

The 45-year-old Swiss lawyer joined UEFA in 2000 and became general secretary in 2009. Multi-lingual, Infantino’s original role was to deal with legal, commercial and professional football matters. He was subsequently appointed as director of legal affairs and club licensing division in 2004. He worked on fostering close contacts with the European Union, the Council of Europe and governmental authorities. Prior to joining UEFA he had a lot of experience working in sport. He had been an advisor to various football bodies in Italy, Spain and Switzerland before then working as the general secretary of the International Centre for Sports Studies at the University of Neuchatel.

Musa Bility

President of the Liberian Football Association, Bility’s candidacy is something of surprise. He is one of a select band of Africans to stand for the presidency following current acting FIFA head Issa Hayatou in 2002, and Sexwale this time around. “If we are to change football, then we have to make sure that those (that) have been running FIFA for the last 20-25 years have nothing to do with it,” the 48-year-old Bility told the BBC after announcing his candidature.

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