FIFA president to meet with African officials
FIFA President Sepp Blatter will have a final opportunity to seek support in a key continent ahead of his re-election bid when he meets with African football leaders on Saturday.
Blatter will meet with representatives from four of the five regional African federations to discuss a lasting legacy for the 2010 World Cup and consider the future of football in Africa, the Council of Southern African Football Associations said Wednesday.
It comes about a week before Blatter is challenged in a vote for the FIFA presidency by Qatari candidate Mohamed bin Hammam.
The meeting in Johannesburg involves leading figures from the west, east, central and southern African football bodies, and will give Blatter a chance to gain support in a continent where bin Hammam is believed to have strong support.
The 75-year-old Blatter is seeking a fourth term as president of world football in the June 1 vote. The Swiss has been in office since 1998.
Africa's all-encompassing Confederation of African Football backed Blatter this week after a vote of its executive committee, but only by majority and not the unanimous support shown to the 13-year incumbent by Europe, South America and Oceania.
Africa's 53 individual national associations are not bound by the CAF executive committee vote, and many are expected to support bin Hammam in the secret ballot of FIFA's 208 member countries in Zurich.
Bin Hammam made two campaign trips to Africa last month and also earned goodwill when Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid sponsored the 2010 CAF general assembly.
Qatar paid $1.8 million for exclusive speaking rights at the meeting of African football's ruling body, CAF said this month.
This week, the Gambia and Mali football federations told The Associated Press they would not automatically follow CAF's endorsement of Blatter and would make their own decision. Cameroon came out in support of Blatter.
Blatter is also likely to have the backing of southern African nations after last year's World Cup brought huge benefits to the region.
Most African nations remain secretive over their voting intentions in FIFA's presidential race, however, in what could be a swing region for the ballot.
Asia is expected to follow bin Hammam, who is president of the Asian Football Confederation.
The campaign has also been further complicated by allegations of corruption in last year's troubled World Cup hosting vote by two senior African officials.
Long-serving CAF President Issa Hayatou and Ivory Coast federation president Jacques Anouma have both strongly denied the allegations that they took $1.5 million to back Qatar's ultimately successful 2022 bid. Both are members of FIFA's executive committee.
Along with Blatter and the four regional leaders, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, 2010 World Cup organizer Danny Jordaan and South African Football Association President Kirsten Nematandani will attend the meeting.
''The panel will discuss the legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup for the African continent and the way forward,'' COSAFA said.
The fifth regional federation, the Union of North African Football Associations - which includes Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco - will not be represented.