Tuesday, February 23, 2016 10:50 am
FIFA Presidential candidate Gianni Infantino remains confident of securing the top job at world football’s governing body after claiming “more than half” of the African member associations will vote for him in this week’s election following a short visit to Robben Island near Cape Town.
Infantino, general secretary of UEFA since 2009, was invited to the Island by fellow candidate and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale, who spent 13 years in jail there between 1977 and 1990 for anti-apartheid crimes.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who passed away aged 95 in December 2013, was also incarcerated at Robben Island for similar reasons.
The Swiss, considered one of the two frontrunners for the FIFA Presidency along with Asian Football Confederation (AFC) head Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, believes a large majority of the African votes will go his way.
This comes despite Shaikh Salman receiving the backing of the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football, though their support does not necessarily mean all of its 54 members would tick the box for the AFC President during Friday’s 26 February election in Zurich.
Africa offers the most votes out of the 209 available and is therefore seen as a key battleground in the race for the top job at world football’s governing body.
“I think I’ll make an impact in Africa,” Infantino said.
“I think I will get more than half the African votes.”
Infantino’s confident declaration came after his campaign released a statement in which he put himself forward as the “candidate of genuine reform”.
He claimed that he was “rooted in integrity with a real vision for the future – and with proven experience to bring growth and development to the benefit the whole football family”.
“I am entering these final days of the campaign with a real sense of momentum for a new beginning and optimism for the election and for the future,” Infantino said.
“This is truly a crossroads moment for football’s world governing body.”
On Monday, it was also announced that Jordan Football Association President Prince Ali, who lost out to now banned President Sepp Blatter in last year’s election, topped a global fans poll conducted by campaign group #NewFIFANow .
Prince Ali received 28.6 per cent of the votes cast by 16,500 respondents, though 40 per cent said they would either abstain or vote informal rather than pick one of the five candidates.
Frenchman Jérôme Champagne was second with 24.6 per cent, while Sexwale, who has run a somewhat dormant campaign to date, was a more popular choice than Shaikh Salman.
Infantino leads the way in insidethegames’ own poll with 37.14 per cent ahead of Prince Ali on 14.29 per cent, though more than a third thought neither of the five men standing for FIFA President was the right man for the job.