French Football Federation backs Infantino for FIFA head
PARIS (AP) — In the absence of the banned Michel Platini, the French Football Federation is supporting Gianni Infantino in his bid to become the next FIFA president.
The latest backing on Friday from Europe adds to multiple pledges of public support on three continents for the UEFA general secretary this week.
Even his main rival in the Feb. 26 election acknowledges the threat.
“The candidate who gains the support of their continent will have a good block of votes. Today, it’s Gianni Infantino,” said Sheikh Salman, the Asian Football Confederation president who expects support from most of his 46 voting members federations.
“With all due respect to the other candidates, I think they are facing a tougher challenge,” the Bahraini sheikh said late Thursday after an AFC meeting in Doha, Qatar. “Today, my chances are good and it’s more than healthy.”
The other contenders are former FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France, and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale.
All but Champagne are expected in Doha on Saturday for the final of Asia’s Olympic qualifying tournament for men.
Infantino is banking on votes from a big majority of the 53 FIFA members in Europe, with France joining Germany in endorsing Platini’s right-hand man of the more than six years.
French federation president Noel Le Graet said 11 of the 12 members of its executive committee agreed to support Infantino.
“Gianni has all the qualities required to succeed,” including “experience, talent, strength at work, and beliefs,” Le Graet said in a statement.
Infantino has received public pledges of support this week from all 10 members in South American and the seven-member regional grouping in Central America.
Still, Sheikh Salman joined Prince Ali — who has support pledged from UEFA member Malta — and Champagne in cautioning against claims of unanimous bloc votes.
“Today, there is no continent which is supporting its candidate, 100 percent supporting one candidate,” the sheikh said.
Infantino entered the race last October after Platini, the UEFA president, was implicated in wrongdoing over a $2 million payment from FIFA in 2011 for uncontracted salary as an adviser to Blatter, who was also later banned.
Le Graet and Champagne were reportedly involved in a spat this week during a meeting in a restaurant after the FFF president told the candidate he would support Infantino.
Champagne, a former FIFA international relations director, said Le Graet insulted him after he made clear he would contest the president’s choice. According to Le Parisien newspaper, Le Graet then used an expletive before leaving the table and paying the bill.