Central America backs Infantino's bid to become FIFA head

AFP_7B44C

Gianni Infantino has received the backing for FIFA president from seven Central America nations.

ALAIN GROSCLAUDE

PANAMA CITY -- FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino gained votes outside Europe on Monday when the 7-nation group of Central American soccer federations pledged its support.

The group, known as UNCAF, published a letter signed Monday by its federation presidents backing the UEFA general secretary in the Feb. 26 FIFA election to succeed Sepp Blatter.

The pledge is a significant bloc of support in the five-man ballot for a candidate from outside voters' home region.

"Thank you UNCAF for the support. Together we can take FIFA forward!" Infantino wrote on his Twitter account.

Infantino met the group -- which is part of the CONCACAF continental body -- in Panama after months of turmoil for the region caught up in the FIFA bribery case by American federal prosecutors.

In December, current and past federation leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama were named in an indictment unsealed by the U.S. Department of Justice. The sprawling racketeering case has provoked Blatter's departure and rocked soccer across the Americas.

Infantino visited ahead of campaigning at the assembly of 10-nation South American governing body CONMEBOL in Asuncion, Paraguay. CONMEBOL is electing a new president after the past three were all indicted in the U.S.

The Swiss official opted to travel across Latin America instead of attending a candidates event called by European Parliament lawmakers in Brussels on Wednesday.

That meeting lost credibility on Monday when Prince Ali of Jordan and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale withdrew. Only former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France stayed committed to attend.

Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, the Asian Football Confederation president, declined the Brussels invitation citing meetings this week in Doha, Qatar.

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