Arabs lament missed opportunity in FIFA presidency race

The two Arab candidates failed to cooperate, leaving the door open for Swiss Gianni Infantino to triumph

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The Arab region squandered the chance to help elect their first FIFA president because their two candidates failed to cooperate, leaving the door open for Swiss Gianni Infantino to triumph on Friday, Arab soccer chiefs and pundits said.

UEFA’s Infantino got 88 votes in the first round, three more than Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, while Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan managed 27 and Frenchman Jerome Champagne won seven.

Sheikh Salman would have had a better chance if his efforts were united with Prince Ali as Infantino won in the second round with 115 of the 207 votes, which was more than the required majority of 104, while Sheikh Salman got 88 and Prince Ali four.

“Some countries gave promises but didn’t fulfil them. We are all Arabs but unfortunately some support the other party (candidate) and we hope this changes in the future,” Bahrain FA president Ali Al Khalifa said in a television interview. “We as Arabs should unite our efforts and be clear with each other.”

“It appears from the first round that some countries have joined the other party (candidate). We have now to look forward and help FIFA’s new president get (the world governing body) out of the current crisis”, he added.

FIFA was voting for a new leader amidst its biggest ever corruption scandal which has seen 41 people and entities indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) pledged its backing to Sheikh Salman while his AFC said it supported him but it seems some of those countries did not give him their vote.

“Africa has fulfilled its promises but it is clear that something happened with Asian countries and this was behind the final result,” Sudan FA president Mutasim Jaffar said.

“Sheikh Salman was depending heavily on Africa and Asia and the plan was to get 100 votes in the first round. He has to find out what happened to his home (vote).”