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Africa

S. African outsider in FIFA presidency bid

Soccer's governiong body FIFA is to vote for a replacement for Sepp Blatter as it seeks to extricate itself from corruption scandals and repair its image. One candidate is South African Tokyo Sexwale.

Tokyo Sexwale is one of five candidates vying to replace Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA, world soccer's governing body.

The election is expected at an extraordinary FIFA congress on Friday (26.02.2016). 209 soccer associations will be taking part.

Sexwale, a member of FIFA's committee on racism and discrimination, is considered an outsider in the contest.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, who has been president of Asian Football Confederation since 2013, and Swiss-Italian Gianni Infantino are tipped as the favorites.

Support from Africa's 54 national soccer associations will be crucial in Friday's vote in Zurich. The executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has endorsed Salman, not Sexwale.

World Cup in South Africa

This a clear blow to Sexwale, the South African candidate, who was an apartheid-era political prisoner alongside the late Nelson Mandela on Robben Island before becoming a government minister and millionaire businessman.

Sexwale also worked tirelessly to bring the FIFA World Cup to South Africa in 2010. But he has his critics.

They include South African-based Zimbabwean sports writer Mxolisi Ncube who told DW Sexwale has never been in charge of a club in South Africa, nor has he been involved with the South African football Association, except as a member of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the 2010 World Cup. In other words, in his bid for the FIFA presidency, Sexwale was playing in the wrong league.

"He's not even talking about being a South African soccer administrator, he not talking about Africa. He is jumping straight to the world," Ncube said.

Undaunted, Sexwale insists he has what it takes to be FIFA president. He points to his LOC record, his work as the current FIFA anti-racism adviser, and his FIFA mediation work between Israelis and Palestinians.

Five candidates for FIFA presidency including Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa

CAF has announced it is backing Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa (bottom right)

Sexwale also believes that despite the CAF's official backing for Salman at an executive committee meeting in Kigali, Rwanda on February 5, 2016, many individual African associations may still vote for him.

"There are 54 associations on this continent, many of which will make their own choices," Sexwale said.

They may also have their doubts. Craig McKune who writes for the South African weekly Mail & Guardian told DW that Sexwale was not the right candidate for the FIFA presidency. "He was associated with Jack Warner, a highly compromised official. On account of all this, I don't think he is the right person to lead FIFA at time when the organization needs transparency and keen leadership," he said.

Sexwale's candidacy has yet to gain momentum among South African footballs fans. But he has received support from former Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena who urged him to "get out there and do us proud."

FIFA is embroiled in a corruption scandal that has led to indictments against several dozen senior officials in the United States. Long-term president Sepp Blatter has been banned for eight years for ethics violations.

Birgit Morgenrath contributed to this report.