Infantino not to meet FIFA presidential candidates before election

Moscow, Feb 16 (IANS) FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino has no plans to hold a meeting with his opponents in the prestigious contest before the elections on February 26, his spokesman Onofre Costa has said.

Media reports earlier this month said that all five candidates running for the world football’s governing body FIFA presidency were likely to gather for a meeting on February 17, reports Tass.

“We are not aware of such meeting,” Costa said in a statement on Monday.

“Gianni Infantino is confident that he will have the support of the majority of the Federations on the 26th of February.”

Costa also rejected assumptions that Infantino could join efforts with another candidate before the FIFA presidential election.

“He won’t make any suggestions to any of the other candidates whom he respects without exception,” Costa added.

Another presidential candidate, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, said last week it was possible for him to join efforts with Infantino ahead of the election.

“You cannot rule anything out at the end of the day,” Sheikh Salman, who is the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said last Wednesday.

The five currently running candidates for the post of the FIFA presidency are: South Africa’s ex-Minister of Housing Construction Tokyo Sexwale, UEFA Secretary General Gianni Infantino, FIFA Vice President and Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, former-FIFA Secretary General Jerome Champagne and President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.

Vitaly Mutko, the Russian sports minister and the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), announced this month that the RFU would back Infantino’s candidacy at the February 26 election.

Mutko, who is also a member of the FIFA executive committee, held a bilateral meeting in Moscow with Infantino on February 3. The UEFA secretary general thanked the Russian sports minister for his support adding that FIFA had been recently living through difficult times and it was very important to be strong and united at the moment.

A chain of corruption scandals rocked FIFA throughout last year. Everything flared up within an unprecedented scandal on the morning of May 27, one day before the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, where seven of the organisation’s high-ranking officials were arrested in Switzerland on bribery, money laundering and corruption charges.

In the most recent development of events, the previously suspended FIFA and UEFA presidents, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini respectively, were both banned on December 21 for eight years by FIFA’s ethics committee from all international football activities over allegedly illegal financial transfer from FIFA to Platini.

Blatter, 79, was re-elected for his fifth consecutive four-year presidential term on May 29, when his only rival Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan pulled out after the first round of vote.

However, addressing a news conference in Zurich on June 2, Blatter said he decided to lay down his mandate at FIFA extraordinary elective Congress. FIFA announced in July that the election of the new president would be held next year on February 26.

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