Africa throws weight behind Sheikh Salman for FIFA president
Sheikh Salman's bid to become FIFA president has received a huge boost after the Confederation of African Football decided to support his candidacy.
The news announced by CAF on Friday means Sheikh Salman, who is president of the Asian Football Confederation, should be able to count on the votes of Africa's 54 federations when the presidential election takes place at an Extraordinary Congress of the world governing body in Zurich on February 26.
It also appears to spell the end of South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale's ambitions to be FIFA president after his own continent opted to get behind Sheikh Salman's bid.
CAF vice-presidents Suketu Patel and Almamy Kabele Camara confirmed the development at a news conference which followed an executive committee meeting in Rwanda.
Alongside UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino, Bahraini royal family member Sheikh Salman is considered one of the two strongest candidates to win this month's election.
He has faced allegations of involvement in the 2011 imprisonment and torture of pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain, including footballers and athletes, while head of the Bahrain Football Association, which he has strenuously denied.
Fellow presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein also criticised his election conduct, the Jordanian royal accusing him of "a blatant attempt to engineer a block vote" by signing a pact between the AFC and its African counterpart, but Sheikh Salman also dismissed this as "entirely inaccurate".
Salman has also secured the unanimous backing of the AFC's executive committee, which should put him in a strong position for the FIFA election.
The FIFA vote is a secret ballot, so the support of executive committees does not necessarily guarantee a united block of votes from each of the constituent federations.