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African confederation backs Salman for FIFA job

Salman and Swiss Gianni Infantino are now clear front-runners to win this month’s presidential election at soccer’s ruling body FIFA

Published: Updated:

Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa gained a major boost in his bid to become the next FIFA president when he received endorsement from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Friday.

Salman and Swiss Gianni Infantino are now clear front-runners to win this month’s presidential election at soccer’s ruling body FIFA, which has been embroiled in a huge corruption scandal that has seen 41 people and entities indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The governing body of football in Africa, which has 54 full voting members, said Asian Football Confederation president Salman was its preferred candidate for the poll in Zurich on Feb. 26 that will determine who succeeds Swiss Sepp Blatter.

“CAF will give full support to Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa towards his candidacy for the FIFA presidency,” vice-president Suketu Patel told reporters before declining to answer questions.

The decision was a big blow for South African candidate Tokyo Sexwale who will remain in the race despite having come under pressure to withdraw.

Salman already has the backing of his own Asian confederation while Infantino, general secretary of UEFA, has the support of his European organization along with the 10-member South American confederation CONMEBOL.

“I am deeply honored to have earned the trust of many of our African friends at this crucial stage of the campaign effort,” Salman said in a statement.

“The two endorsements only mean there is a strong groundswell in favor of my candidacy. What they don’t mean is that I can sit back and relax. This campaign will be decided on the day of the vote, not before.

“Naturally I am confident I now have a reasonably strong position to work from with such support,” added Salman.

The FIFA poll will be a secret ballot and the support of executive committees for candidates does not necessarily translate into a united block of votes.