Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino and South African mining tycoon Tokyo Sexwale are unmoved by Caf’s decision to back Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa in February 26 Fifa presidential election. The continental soccer body made public their choice at Serena Hotel, Kigali on Friday after over six hours of a Caf executive meeting.
But Italian-Swiss, Infantino, was relaxed after the 54-member confederation’s declaration.
“Well, it’s the Caf executive committee who have decided,” Infantino told the media here, “This is not the African national associations’ decision.” Sheikh Salman, 50, already has the backing of the Asian confederation, while Infantino is so far supported by Europe along with the 10-member South American confederation, CONMEBOL.
“I have received a lot of support from individual associations all over the world,” added Infantino.
“The discussions I had, and am having in Africa with African associations make me feel extremely confident that with my program I can convince a few to back me.”
Infantino, 45, has already visited “around 10 countries in Africa and I have personally met with about 30 federation presidents and I plan to meet each and every single president so that I can try to get them to support me.”
Next few weeks
Asked whether a meeting he had with Sexwale as Caf went about with theirs at Serena signaled a deal, Infantino said “Sexwale is somebody I consider a friend, brother but he is a candidate, so we will have to see what will happen in the next few weeks.”
Sexwale, 62, said Caf’s choice was theirs alone. “The election goes ahead and I am a candidate,” he emphasized in a submission that tore down Caf’s later position that claimed Sexwale had withdrawn from the race.
“The exercise in Kigali was the assembly of Caf executive committee, and it was here only to make a recommendation about which candidate they would like to nominate.”
In their 101 years of existence, Fifa have not had an African president, with only Sexwale offering himself this time.
“This is the biggest continent in the family of Fifa,” said a desolate Sexwale, “And of course naturally I thought, maybe, I should have been looked at a bit more favourably by my own confederation.”
Of the five candidates, also including Jerome Champagne, only Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein was not in Kigali to present his credentials to Caf. Although Infantino and Sheikh Salman are assured of support from two confederations each so far, it’s not a guarantee that they will get all votes accordingly, as this is a secret ballot.
FIFA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
SHEIKH SALMAN BIN EBRAHIM AL-KHALIFA (50 years old)
Current position: Asian Football Confederation president and Fifa vice-president
Previous position: Former Bahrain FA boss
GIANNI INFANTINO (45 years old)
Current position: Uefa general secretary (since 2009)
Previous positions: Joined Uefa in 2000 as a lawyer and secretary general of the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) at the University of Neuchâtel
TOKYO SEXWALE (62 years old)
Nationality: South African
Current position: Mining tycoon
Previous positions: Anti-apartheid campaigner (jailed for 13 years on Robben Island), former government minister, member of Fifa anti-discrimination task force, South Africa Apprentice presenter
PRINCE ALL BIN AL-HUSSEIN (40 yrs)
Current position: President of Jordan Football Association and founder and president of the West Asian Football Federation.
Previous position: Former Fifa VP
JEROME CHAMPAGNE (57 years old)
Current position: Consultant in international football
Previous position: A former diplomat, he worked for Fifa for 11 years as an executive and advisor to president Sepp Blatter, before leaving in 2010