A guide to the FIFA presidential candidates
GENEVA (AP) The FIFA presidential election on Feb. 26 will be a 7-man race. For now, at least.
FIFA signed off Wednesday that seven of the eight entries filed valid nominations from at least five of FIFA’s 209 member federations. Former Trinidad and Tobago player David Nakhid was excluded because one of his five also supported another contender.
The next step is approval of official candidates within about two weeks. That will come from FIFA’s election committee led by Domenico Scala.
Scala’s three-man group will decide after getting results of integrity checks by the FIFA ethics committee. Each candidate must also show an active football role for at least two of the past five years.
Still, Scala’s announcement next month won’t be the last word on candidacies.
Vetting of Michel Platini is on hold until his FIFA ethics case is resolved.
Here are the seven hopefuls, in no particular order:
MICHEL PLATINI (Age: 60, Nationality: France)
The former front-runner and longtime heir apparent. Derailed by a criminal investigation of his 2011 deal with Blatter to get about $2 million of FIFA cash for backdated salary. He denies any wrongdoing.
UEFA president and all-time great player claimed about 115 pledges of support until the Swiss attorney general swooped on FIFA HQ on Sept. 25 to question him.
Now suspended, Platini could be serving a ban rather than a FIFA presidential term through 2019.
SHEIKH SALMAN BIN IBRAHIM AL KHALIFA (49, Bahrain)
Platini’s previous main supporter, now in the spotlight as an early favorite to win in a campaign where his country’s human rights record could be key.
Soft-spoken Bahraini royal was elected to lead Asian football out of its corruption scandals in 2013. Then, claims he was complicit in Bahrain national team players being tortured after pro-democracy protests in 2011 did not slow his landslide win. Those claims have been revived by western media early in the FIFA contest. Sheikh Salman hardly seems a natural fit for a testy election fight but started with strong denials to the BBC this week over the allegations.
PRINCE ALI BIN AL-HUSSEIN (39, Jordan)
Former FIFA vice president, who led campaign to overturn ban on hijabs, is back for a second challenge in very different circumstances.
Prince Ali gained respect in denying Blatter a decisive first-round win, 133-73, in May. But he lost some European supporters since and was never helped by the sheikhs running 46-vote Asian confederation.
President of Jordan Football Association for 16 years, aims to let his record stand for itself rather than do back-door deals which traditionally are how FIFA elections are won.
GIANNI INFANTINO (45, Switzerland)
Platini’s right-hand man as UEFA general secretary for six years. Entered the race to protect Europe against his boss’s possible/probable exclusion. Will stand aside if Platini is cleared.
Like Blatter decades ago, Infantino is an experienced administrator used to being a face of the organization to the media. They also were born about 10 kilometers (6 miles) apart in Valais region of Swiss Alps.
Could find that some voters who were ready for Platini won’t accept a UEFA replacement so easily.
JEROME CHAMPAGNE (57, France)
Former FIFA official most closely linked to Blatter and the vision of a globalized body helping its smallest members.
French former diplomat, including a 1990s spell in Los Angeles, who was FIFA international relations director when forced out in 2010 by a Platini-driven power struggle.
Stayed resident in Zurich ever since, consulting for football clients in Africa, Asia and Kosovo. Already published a detailed manifesto that appears almost anti-European in places.
TOKYO SEXWALE (62, South Africa)
By far the most intriguing and colorful life story.
Today, the charismatic mining tycoon is FIFA’s Blatter-appointed liaison between the Israeli and Palestinian soccer bodies.
Previously, was an apartheid-era activist and prisoner with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, a government minister and television presenter of South Africa’s version of ”The Apprentice.”
Was member of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup bidding and organizing committees which are now implicated by the U.S. Department of Justice in $10 million payments to FIFA voters. Sexwale denies involvement in the committees’ finances.
A strong candidate if he gets many of Africa’s 54 FIFA votes.
MUSA BILITY (48, Liberia)
The biggest outsider. President of Liberia’s soccer federation since 2010 who has clashed with Issa Hayatou, the longtime Confederation of African Football leader and now interim FIFA president.
Bility went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over rule changes that allowed Hayatou to stand for re-election unopposed in 2013.