Football's governing body in Africa has thrown its support behind Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa for FIFA president. Sepp Blatter's successor is to be elected at an extraordinary congress later this month.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) made the announcement following a meeting of its executive committee in the Rwandan capital, Kigali on Friday.
"The executive committee decided that CAF will give full support to Sheikh Salman with his candidacy for FIFA presidency," CAF first Vice-President Suketu Patel told a press conference.
The decision is a major boost for the Bahraini royal's campaign to succeed longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter, as the CAF will wield 54 votes at the February 26 congress in Zurich, the most of any of the world's regional governing bodies.
The move is also a severe blow to the campaign of Tokyo Sexwale, the only African candidate in the five-man field. The other three hopefuls are Prince Ali bin al Hussein, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, and Jerome Champagne.
Sheikh Salman and Infantino are widely seen as the frontrunners in the race, particularly after UEFA President Michel Platini announced last month that he had given up on his aspirations of becoming a candidate.
In December, FIFA had already essentially put an end to Platini's hopes when it handed him and Blatter eight-year bans over a dubious payment of two million Swiss francs (1.85 million euros, $2 million) made by Blatter to Platini in 2011. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Blatter, who has been FIFA president since 1998, was elected for a fifth term back in May, but just days later the 79-year-old Swiss national announced plans to step down amid corruption allegations that have engulfed the world governing body.
In the hours prior to the start of that congress, on May 27, Swiss police arrested several FIFA officials at a luxury hotel in Zurich, after they had been indicted as part of a US investigation.
pfd/rd (AP, AFP)