AP Source: Sheikh Salman closes in on potential FIFA bid
GENEVA (AP) Asian soccer leader Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa is looking to stand in the FIFA presidential election to succeed Sepp Blatter if he has enough support, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Sheikh Salman, a member of Bahrain’s royal family, has until Oct. 26 to submit his candidacy which requires the backing of five federations to make the Feb. 26 ballot.
The Asian Football Confederation president would be stepping into the election void that is likely to be left by one-time favorite Michel Platini.
The UEFA president’s campaign for the FIFA leadership had been quickly backed by Sheikh Salman last July. But now Platini seems unlikely to pass election integrity checks after the candidate cut-off because he is suspended from world soccer while under an ethics investigation over a 2011 FIFA payment authorized by Blatter.
Sheikh Salman will use next week’s trip to Zurich for the FIFA executive committee meeting to discuss with fellow soccer leaders if they would support his presidential bid, the person said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made.
Apart from Platini, Jordanian federation head Prince Ali bin al-Hussein is the only other person to formally submit his candidacy so far to FIFA.
Sheikh Salman has not supported Prince Ali’s campaign and is likely to be able to command the support of most of his 47-nation Asian confederation – unlike the Jordanian. Sheikh Salman could also secure the majority of votes from the 54-nation African confederation, the person said.
It is unclear who European nations would back if Platini is declared ineligible, although the UEFA president is pursuing a legal fight to have his suspension lifted.
UEFA members of FIFA’s executive committee will use the meeting in Zurich on Tuesday as an opportunity to discuss options for a potential alternative European candidate to Platini.
A possible contender is Dutch federation head Michael van Praag, who was a candidate for the May election but withdrew ahead of the ballot to ensure it was a head-to-head between Blatter and Prince Ali.
The 79-year-old Blatter was returned for a fifth term but revealed resignation plans four days later as the severity of the U.S. criminal investigations into FIFA officials magnified and sponsors stepped up criticism.
Prince Ali does not appear to have strong support in Europe after turning on Platini since enjoying the former France captain’s support in the May election.
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