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FIFA confirms five presidential candidates

FIFA has confirmed the five candidates that are running to become the president of international soccer's governing body. Meanwhile, a planned debate at the European Parliament has fallen through.

A statement released on Tuesday said that the candidacies of Prince Ali bin al Hussein, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, Gianni Infantino, Tokyo Sexwale and Jerome Champagne had all been given final approval.

"The Ad-hoc Electoral Committee has formally admitted and declared the candidates eligible for the election of the office of FIFA president at the extraordinary FIFA Congress," read a letter that was sent out to all 209 of FIFA's member associations.

Sheikh Salman, the head of the Asian Football Confederation, and Infantino, general secretary of the

European governing body, UEFA,

are widely regarded as the frontrunners to replace Sepp Blatter, who announced just days after winning reelection last May, that he would step down early.

Last month, FIFA imposed

eight-year bans from all football related activities

both on the 79-year-old Swiss national, who was first elected FIFA president in 1998, and the man who had previously been seen as the favorite to succeed him, UEFA President Michel Platini.

The reason for the bans is 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 and said the payment was for work Platini had done around a decade earlier. The payment is also the subject of a Swiss criminal investigation. Both have said they would appeal their bans, but earlier this month,

Platini announced

that he was giving up on his bid to become FIFA president.

The new president is to be elected at an extraordinary FIFA Congress on February 26.

Planned debate falls through

Meanwhile, a planned debate involving the five candidates at the European Parliament has fallen through, after two of the candidates, Prince Ali and Sexwale pulled out at the last minute. It is not clear exactly what will happen on Wednesday, after Champagne told the Reuters news agency that he would turn up at the European Parliament in Brussels, even if he is the only candidate there. Earlier, the AFP cited a statement from the Parliament's Sports Intergroup, which said that the "planned forum with the candidates for the presidency of FIFA will not now finally take place." The group said that Prince Ali had been the first to cancel, citing concerns that the debate could amount to a breach of FIFA's campaign rules.

pfd/ (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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