Cairo - FIFA presidential candidate Luis Figo has disputed the Confederation of African Football's claim on Wednesday that all 54 votes from the continent will go to incumbent Sepp Blatter in the presidential elections next month.
The former Portugal international, in Egypt at the CAF Congress to canvass for votes, told Reuters he did not believe all Africa was solidly behind Blatter, who seeks re-election on May 29 against Figo, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan and the Dutch football association president Michael van Praag.
"I feel there's a lot of respect for CAF among all the African federations but I'm positive that (CAF president) Mr (Issa) Hayatou did not speak in the name of the 54 members of the confederation," said the former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder.
"Even when he (Hayatou) announced he would support Blatter, we could notice a difference from past congresses when a statement like that normally is followed by a standing ovation.
"This time we heard just a normal applause, which confirms my idea that a lot of African countries understand and agree with the need to change for the better of everyone, especially the national associations.
"In fact there were federation presidents who ensured me they would vote for me but they were reluctant to saying this out loud because they feared reactions against them, their federations and even their countries," said Figo.
"It also to end this kind of atmosphere that I decided to be a candidate. Football should be about a beautiful game and people should be able to express themselves freely and openly."
The CAF congress in Cairo ended on Tuesday with Hayatou declaring Africa's complete support for Blatter's re-election but on all previous occasions when the CAF chief has promised a block of African votes, many have broken ranks.
When Blatter came to power in 1998, Hayatou pledged Africa's votes to rival Lennart Johansson of Sweden but most defied him to vote Blatter into power.
When Hayatou stood against Blatter in 2002, almost half the African countries voted for the Swiss rather than their own confederation president.