Blatter, Prince Ali slug it out in FIFA presidential poll

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Zurich, May 29 (IANS) Undeterred by a corruption scandal that has already implicated nine of its senior officials, world football governing body FIFA was on Friday set to elect its new chief — with incumbent Sepp Blatter seeking a fifth term challenged by Jordanian heavyweight Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.

The 65th FIFA Congress, underway here with 209 member associations in attendance, will elect the new FIFA president under the shadow of a murky marketing and sponsorship scandal involving as many as two FIFA vice presidents and seven executive committee members.

Before the voting begins, each candidate has the opportunity to speak to FIFA members for 15 minutes. Each of FIFA’s 209 member associations gets one vote, so the likes of footballing minnows — like Trinidad & Tobago and Finland — have as much say as the soccer heavyweights — like Spain, Brazil and the Football Association of England.

It is a paper vote where member associations will be casting their votes by secret ballot, in alphabetical order. In the first round, a candidate needs to get two-thirds of the vote to be declared the winner. If the vote is closer than that, a second round of voting is held, with a simple majority enough to secure victory.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, assisted by a number of scrutineers, will control the distribution and counting of ballot papers.

The battle was initially a four-cornered contest but former Portugal star midfielder Luis Figo, 42, and Royal Dutch Football Association president Michael van Praag, 67, pulled out of the race because they did not want to split the anti-Blatter vote.

Blatter has been at the FIFA helm since 1998 and earned quite a few enemies in the last 18 years.

There are six confederations that group all FIFA member associations namely AFC – Asian Football Confederation (46 members), CAF – Confederation of African Football (54 members), CONCACAF – Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (41 members), CONMEBOL – Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (10 members), OFC – Oceania Football Confederation (11 members), and UEFA – Union of European Football Associations (53 members) for a grand total of 215 member associations — FIFA recognises only 209 of them for voting rights.

Blatter has been publicly backed by the football confederations of Asia (AFC) and Africa (CAF), which means that most of their member nations are expected to vote for him.

Prince Ali is the favoured candidate of the European confederation, UEFA, with its president Michel Platini on Thursday asserting that the organisation will support Ali in the wake of the corruption scandal that has rocked FIFA.

CONCACAF and CONMEBOL have been traditionally loyal to Blatter but some of their member-nations were expected to back Prince Ali this time around.

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