African soccer heads yesterday met in Rwanda to decide on which of Fifa’s presidential candidates they will back as the campaign to replace Sepp Blatter at the helm of the sport’s troubled ruling body reaches the home straight.
According to French newspaper L’Equipe, the meeting would be held ahead of the Championship of African Nations (Chan) finals tomorrow.
However, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu yesterday told the Weekend Nation that there was no official meeting.
“We were not invited to the finals [and] the meeting is not official.
“We are only preparing to attend Fifa elective congress [this] month end,” said Nyamilandu yesterday.
He also said no decision has been taken by FAM on which candidate to endorse.
“We are taking our time, it’s still early days,” he said.
However, the French paper reported that with 54 voting nations, Africa’s choice at a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, would be crucial in the ballot of 209 member associations on February 26 in Zurich.
Fifa is voting for a new leader amid its biggest ever corruption scandal which has seen 41 people and entities indicted by the US Department of Justice.
Leading contenders Gianni Infantino, the Swiss general secretary of European soccer’s ruling body Uefa, and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, are both in Kigali ahead of the CAF meeting.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou, who is also Fifa’s acting chief, told the newspaper that his confederation was originally behind Uefa president Michel Platini before the Frenchman was banned from football for eight years by Fifa’s Ethics Committee.
“If Platini had been a candidate, Africa would have voted for him, that is sure,” said Cameroonian Hayatou, who raised the prospect of Bahraini royal Salman being the preferred choice.
“If we decide to support Salman is it a crime? Who can prevent us from doing this?” he was quoted as saying.
South African Tokyo Sexwale and Frenchman Jerome Champagne were also expected to be in Rwanda but fellow Fifa presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan will not be attending, his spokesman told Reuters.
Last month Uefa’s executive committee gave unanimous backing to Infantino while Salman has the support of the AFC executive.
Although member associations do not have to follow their executive committee’s voting recommendations in the secret ballot to decide the Fifa president, the two leading candidates are expected to have the bulk of their own continent behind them – making the battle for Africa even more crucial.