FIFA President Sepp Blatter has promised greater transparency amid a corruption scandal engulfing football's governing body. Blatter is clear favorite, but his opponent Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein also got to have a say.
FIFA members at the organization's annual congress in Switzerland were Friday preparing to elect the body's next president.
Current FIFA head Sepp Blatter, who is seeking reelection for a fifth term, told delegates he was "appealing to unity and team spirit so we can move forward together."
Blatter has held the top job for the past 17 years, and he's widely expected to beat Jordanian challenger Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein in the presidency vote.
"Friends and colleagues, I know that FIFA is not just about one man, and I will never lead it unilaterally," Prince Ali said in his address. The Jordanian FIFA member also thanked former vote rivals, Michael van Praag and Luis Figo, for pulling out of the election race and throwing their lot in with him. Still, Blatter looks in superb shape for another four year term.
Most of the states from Asia, Africa and Latin America have thrown their support behind Blatter, while many of his loudest critics come from Europe.
Blatter's leadership has faced heavy criticism, including calls for him to resign, following the arrests Wednesday of seven FIFA officials over allegations of corruption. Swiss authorities are also investigating the decision to award Russia and Qatar the right to host the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 respectively.
Ahead of Friday's vote, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Blatter to step down and "the sooner the better." He said it was "unthinkable" that the 79-year-old Swiss could clean up FIFA.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, urged for greater transparency. "Bribery and corruption have to be combated, and as soon as possible. The other issues must be decided within FIFA," the chancellor said.
FIFA is one of the world's most powerful sports bodies and has long been plagued by scandals.
In his speech to the congress in Zurich, Blatter condemned the corruption within FIFA, while at the same time attempting to distance himself from it.
"I am willing to accept the president of FIFA is responsible for everything but I would at least like to share that responsibility with everyone," he said.
"We cannot constantly supervise everyone in football ... you cannot ask everyone to behave ethically."
Enough for a majority?
Each of FIFA's 209 members has an equal vote to decide who will be president. A two-thirds majority would be enough for Blatter or Prince Ali to win.
The 39-year-old Prince Ali is mainly supported by Europe's governing body UEFA but not all their 53 members are expected to choose him. He is also backed by Canada and the United States.
Almost all of the African states - which have 54 votes - support Blatter. Most of the Asian confederation (a possible 46 votes) is also on his side, with the exception of Australia. Meanwhile New Zealand, which had planned to back Blatter, changed its position overnight.
Palestine drops motion
During Friday's proceedings, the Palestinian soccer federation withdrew its motion asking FIFA to suspend Israel for restricting the movement of players in the West Bank and Gaza.
An emotional Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian soccer body, told the congress he decided to drop the motion after many FIFA delegates urged unity over discord.
"I am here to play football rather than play politics. I don't want to score goals, I want to end suffering," he said.
nm/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)