FIFA presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale has dramatically withdrawn his candidacy on the day of the presidential vote in Zurich. In an address to the extraordinary congress of world football’s governing body, the 62-year-old South African, a former anti-apartheid activist who was imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, declared that he would not run.
The last of the five candidates to speak before voting began on Friday, he ended his speech by telling delegates he was pulling out of the race and said: “It’s your problem now.”
In an unscripted speech to voters, Sexwale said: “My campaign is suspended as of now.”
He stressed that he was ready to serve the new president before leaving the stage to a standing ovation from many delegates and had told ESPN FC before the congress started that he would prefer an African or Asian president.
Before Sexwale’s speech, Gianni Infantino had switched between English, Italian, French and Spanish as he discussed each confederation’s needs.
The UEFA general secretary said: “We have to get Europe to do much more.”
Infantino also defended spending pledges which have been criticised by Bahraini rival Sheikh Salman, the Asian confederation president.
The Swiss-Italian said: “The money is your money not the FIFA president’s.”
In his speech, Jerome Champagne aligned himself with outgoing president Sepp Blatter by saying he shared a world vision for FIFA.
After reminding voters that he has an “unblemished background,” Champagne, who worked for Blatter for 11 years, pointed to his track record working in Africa and urged delegates to “vote for the candidate who is truly independent and has knowledge of the world.”
Sheikh Salman urged nations to elect him and stressed that he would not damage the governing body’s finances.
The Asian confederation president had earlier claimed that Infantino’s spending plans would “bankrupt” FIFA.
He said: “We have to act responsibly… I am not ready to mortgage the future of FIFA for election purposes.”
And he told delegates that it was “better to speak from the heart rather than from a piece of paper.”
Prince Ali, the first speaker, said he was the only presidential candidate with a “genuine commitment to a new style of leadership.”
Addressing FIFA’s problems, the Jordanian prince said the organisation had “floundered.”
And he stressed that it should have “no acceptance” of corruption, self-interest or bigotry and said: “The game and its players will be protected from any exploitations.”-ESPNFC