Paris - Africa's football powerbrokers meet
in Rwanda on Friday, poised to make or break the dreams of the five men chasing
the biggest job in the sport -- the presidency of FIFA.
With 54 votes at the disposal of the
Confederation of African Football (CAF) - the most of any of the world's
regional governing bodies - it is no surprise that four of the five contenders
will be in Kigali to find out who Africa prefers to be its standard-bearer.
Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the
president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), UEFA's number two Gianni
Infantino, South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale and Jerome Champagne, a
former assistant secretary-general of FIFA, will all be at the meeting
desperate to secure the support required for the February 26 vote.
Only Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan is
understood to be staying away from the CAF meeting being held on the side-lines
of the African Nations Championship tournament being played in Kigali.
Prince Ali recently denounced a possible
attempt to breach the election rules and called for an investigation after CAF
signed a January 15 agreement with the AFC to organise tournaments and
programmes for technical development.
But in a strong-worded interview with
French sports daily L'Equipe on Thursday, CAF president Issa Hayatou, who is
also the acting FIFA chief after the suspension of Sepp Blatter, said Africa
will not be pressured into making a decision over who to support in the
"We are free to support who we
want," said the veteran Cameroonian administrator.
"The last time we were behind Blatter
and UEFA supported Ali. He said nothing at the time. But who is Prince Ali? If
he wants to bark then that's his problem.
"We will vote for whoever we want. If
today we decide to support Salman, is it a crime? Who can prevent us from doing
But CAF's decision has been made tougher by
the presence in the race of an African candidate - Sexwale.
Sexwale, a former anti-apartheid prisoner
alongside Nelson Mandela, insisted at the weekend that he would not quit the
FIFA race despite being widely criticised on the continent for his campaign.
"We are in the dark and we do not know
as neighbours what his strategies are. Maybe they do not need our vote,"
said Namibia's Football Association president Frans Mbidi.
Sexwale hit back, saying: "I am still
running and not running away. I am still in the FIFA race."
However, he did raise the possibility of
some candidates joining forces.
"The time for alliances is... coming,
and it's healthy, it's democratic and it's good. Now we are talking... we are
brothers, we are colleagues."