Zurich - Favourites Sheikh Salman Bin
Ibrahim Al Khalifa and Gianni Infantino, and the three outsiders, completed
their campaigns on the eve of Friday's crucial presidential elections at the
corruption-tainted ruling football body FIFA.
The candidates were greeted by a huge media
contingent at a Zurich hotel where they appeared before delegates from the
Oceania body OFC and the CONCACAF region for North and Central America and the
Caribbean, before touring the other confederations like Europe's UEFA as well.
Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein - who lost
the 2015 election to then incumbent and now banned Joseph Blatter, and is an
outsider now - summed up before UEFA delegates what is at stake Friday at the
"It is the most critical of times for FIFA
tomorrow, it is the biggest day in the history of the world governing body,"
"We have to get it right. The whole world
is looking at you to take our sport into the future and not to have a situation
in which we remain the same or end up much much worse."
Frenchman Jerome Champagne and Tokyo Sexwale of
South Africa are the other candidates. They are not expected to garner many
votes while the ballot could be decided by those who initially vote for Prince
Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou was meanwhile
also out and about to urge all associations to approve an important reform bill
to restore credibility at FIFA.
A two-thirds majority of 138 (from so far 207
eligible members) is required in the first round, and a simple majority of 104
votes is needed from the next rounds onwards in which the candidate with the
least number of votes is eliminated.
The Asian football chief Sheikh Salman, who
wants to be a non-executive president, appears to have the majority of votes
from Africa (54 members) and Asia (44, if Kuwait and Indonesia remain
East Asian nations including Japan, South Korea
and China pledged their support Thursday, and he told CONCACAF their delegates
would not lose privileges when the number FIFA committees are reduced as he
will bring them into new commissions instead.
But some delegations also voiced disappointment
that he did not address criticism from human rights groups who say he was
involved in arrests and possible torture of player around pro-democracy
protests in Bahrain in 2011. Sheikh Salman has denied the accusations.
"If the reports are right it is a very
difficult situation to plan the future with a personality on top who may be
tainted," German FIFA executive Wolfgang Niersbach said.
UEFA secretary general Infantino meanwhile can
count on most of Europe's 53 votes and many from CONCACAF as well. South
America's 10 CONMEBOL members have supported him as well but there is
speculation he may not get all of them.
All candidates have 15 minutes to address the
congress, and Champagne said: "Of course I will be there." Sexwale
said: "It is about FIFA. FIFA is a house broken and needs to be repaired.
You will hear more tomorrow."
The new president succeeds Blatter who reigned
since 1998, announced on June 2 he would step down, and is by now banned for
six years in connection with a "disloyal payment" to the also banned
UEFA president Michel Platini, who had planned to run for the presidency as
Blatter was initially re-elected on May 29 at a
congress rocked by a first wave of arrests around a US investigation.
American authorities have so far treated the
ruling body as a victim of corruption practices which has seen 41
people/companies indicted, but FIFA is under big pressure to reform itself to
keep this status.
The new president will be the face of FIFA as
his power is to be cut drastically under wide-ranging governance reform
The reforms need 156 of the maximum 207 votes to
pass and Hayatou urged the members that the "spirit of collective
responsibility ... is needed now, more than ever."
He also urged confederations and member
federations to adopt similar reforms, which an extraordinary congress did on
Thursday for CONCACAF following the loss of three previous presidents in the US
UEFA, like CONCACAF without a president after
the ban on Michel Platini, also had a congress but mainly on routine
matters such as financial reports as it announced a 21 per cent increase in
revenue to now 2.099 billion euros (2.31 billion dollars) in 2014-15.