LAUSANNE, Switzerland: How the five candidates for February’s FIFA presidential election, plus a potential sixth in Michel Platini, are shaping up:
Gianni Infantino (SUI): The UEFA number two was previously best known to the wider public as the shaven-headed overseer of UEFA’s Champions League draw. Suddenly found himself with a golden opportunity when Michel Platini became embroiled in a FIFA payment scandal. If the Frenchman can work his way clear of his problems, then the multilingual lawyer with impeccable connections in Europe claims he will throw his support behind his longtime boss. Meanwhile however he has been on a relentless and whirlwind tour of Latin America and Asia to galvanize support for his own campaign, based on a program of rigorous democratic reform.
Sheikh Salman (BRN): President of the powerful Asian Confederation, already a FIFA insider as vice-president. His chief obstacle are accusations he took an active role in a crackdown on a 2011 uprising in Bahrain at the time of the Arab Spring and when he was at the head of the local federation. A London-based human rights group have provided a dossier of allegations concerning the imprisonment of 150 athletes and coaches. Should he withdraw it is felt he would throw his influence behind Platini.
Tokyo Sexwale (RSA): Former anti-apartheid campaigner jailed alongside Nelson Mandela, this 62-year-old politician and millionaire businessman says he will “follow the money” to clean up the mess FIFA is in. As a complete outsider many people believe he is exactly the type of new broom which is needed. His problem lies in the difficulty in galvanising support amongst the 209 federations, given he has little experience in this field.
Prince Ali (JOR): Last May he took Sepp Blatter to the second round of the last FIFA presidential election before pulling out. The 39-year-old half-brother of Jordan’s king Abdallah was at that time however supported by UEFA, who are now fully behind Infantino whilst awaiting developments with Platini. Nor does Prince Ali enjoy the support of the Asian Federation, currently backing Sheik Salman.
Jerome Champagne (FRA): The former deputy general secretary of FIFA and former French diplomat was also a special advisor to Blatter, which may cost him dearly. The 57-year-old is running his campaign on a ticket of ‘redistribution of funds’, which may go down well in the developing world.
The Platini case
Michel Platini (FRA): The UEFA president and FIFA vice president is a veritable living legend of the game with his three Ballon d’Or from his time leading Juventus and France to spectacular success. He enjoyed widespread support until a 90 days ban and an investigation into a 1.8 million euros payment made by the FIFA chief to the Frenchman in 2011. The damage done not only by the allegations but also by his inability to campaign is hard to gage. While he enjoys support from Infantino and Sheikh Salman, things can change from one day to the next in politics. His ban by FIFA’s ethics committee ends on January 5, 2016 when his case will be reconsidered by the FIFA electoral commission.