LONDON. — South Sudan will support Gianni Infantino’s bid to be FIFA president.
On Friday, the Confederation of African Football voted to back the other leading contender, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain.
However, the 54 African federations will vote separately in the election to decide Sepp Blatter’s successor in Zurich on February 26.
“We are supporting Gianni Infantino for the FIFA presidency,” said South Sudan football chief Chabur Goc Alei.
Chabur said Infantino, the preferred candidate of FIFA vice-president and former Manchester United chief executive David Gill, had a better project “for our federation, for Africa and the world”.
He said he expects more African nations to support Infantino, general secretary of Uefa, who became the confederations’ candidate when president Michel Platini was prevented from taking part over the payment scandal that saw him banned from football for eight years.
In addition to Sheikh Salman, Infantino is standing against South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale, former FIFA assistant secretary general Jerome Champagne and Jordan’s FIFA executive committee member Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.
Africa is the continent with most votes. Europe has 53, Asia, 46, Concacaf (North, Central American and Caribbean), 35, Oceania, 11, and the Infantino-supporting Conmebol (South America), 10.
And half of Africa’s federations look set to oppose caf’s instructions to support Sheikh Salman in this month’s FIFA presidential elections, claims Liberia FA chairman Musa Bility.
caf pledged support to the Bahraini on Friday while overlooking the candidacy of Africa’s only entrant, Sexwale of South Africa.
Bility, a onetime candidate in the FIFA race himself before being excluded on eligibility grounds, says he is backing Prince Ali of Jordan.
“I have been in contact with 26 African FA presidents and none will vote for Sheikh Salman,” Bility told BBC Sport.
The continent is seen as a key campaigning ground since Africa’s 54 members represents the largest regional voting block of FIFA’s 209 member associations.
But caf cannot vote as a whole — each member nation will vote individually in a secret ballot.
In a statement, Bility called for the importance of getting the vote right to succeed outgoing President Sepp Blatter, currently barred by FIFA on corruption charges that he denies, in the 26 February vote.
In addition to Prince Ali, Sheikh Salman and Sexwale, Frenchman Jerome Champagne and Swiss Gianni Infantino are also standing.
FIFA is currently going through the worst corruption scandal in its 112-year history.
“We are attempting to restore integrity and change FIFA for the good of the game,” Bility said in a letter to African FA presidents.
“It is for that purpose — to right the wrongs and to offer our organisation a real chance for the change we seek — that I have decided to endorse the candidacy of Prince Ali of Jordan.
“Prince Ali’s action is clear and based on principled leadership. I trust him and urge you to do the same,” he added.
Prince Ali was the sole challenger to Sepp Blatter in last year’s elections but conceded defeat ahead of a second round of voting after losing the first round 133-73.
Despite not having caf’s backing, Sexwale told various news outlets — including the BBC — that he still plans to stand in the Zurich election.
“The elections of the FIFA candidate on the 26th of this month goes ahead, and I am a candidate.” Sexwale told BBC Sport.
“It goes ahead because I have been sent by my own association from South Africa and I am also representing the aspirations of many associations across the world who have nominated me to be a candidate, as well as many other people who are ready to vote when we reach Zurich” Sexwale added.
Last month, caf signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asian Football Confederation — over which Sheikh Salman presides — with Sheikh Salman earning criticism from Prince Ali.
The Jordanian has appealed to FIFA but is yet to hear back. — BBC Sport.