FIFA's incumbent head Sepp Blatter is set to win a fifth term as the organization's president. But a massive corruption scandal has repelled many of his supporters who are now rallying for Prince Ali of Jordan.
Sepp Blatter could win a fifth term as president of FIFA on Friday, although several countries demanded he withdraw his candidacy after senior officials of the organization were arrested on corruption charges.
79-year-old Blatter on Thursday confirmed he was going to stand for the elections, despite several calls for him to step down from his post. Blatter is currently serving his fourth term as FIFA's president. If he wins the polls on Friday, he would retain his position as the international federation's head for four more years.
Ali vs. Blatter
However, the European football federation UEFA's chief Michel Platini and representatives from several other countries lobbied to gather support for Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, who was the only candidate standing against Blatter.
The 40-year-old son of King Hussein of Jordan was a former army officer and had been the vice president of FIFA in Asia since 2011. If he got elected, the prince promised he would "shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport."
US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati voiced his backing for Prince Ali through a tweet:
However, with Blatter's chances being considerably higher, there were fears that the US' opposition could dim the country's hopes of hosting a FIFA championship. "Would I like to see the United States host a World Cup in the future? The answer is of course, yes. But for me, and for US soccer, better governance and more integrity at CONCACAF and FIFA are more important than hosting any international soccer tournament," Gulati said.
The Canadian Federation's Victor Montagliani also clearly stated Ottawa's disinclination to support Blatter.
Support for the FIFA chief
Blatter's chances of success lay largely with his support base in Asian, African and Latin American nations. A top Olympic official about to join FIFA's executive shortly told AFP news agency that there were "many questions" about the FIFA officials' arrests, since they came only two days before the presidential polls.
"Why did they want to do it before the congress," Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah of Kuwait asked, adding, "If England and America had secured the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, would this procedure have been the same?"
Moscow also came out in support of Blatter, with Vladimir Putin accusing the US of "illegally" prosecuting people and attempting to take the 2018 World Cup away from Russia.
Seven FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday on accusations of taking $150 million in bribes. FIFA chief Blatter himself was not implicated, but 14 persons were being investigated by US and Swiss authorities for racketeering, money laundering and fraud.
mg/bw (AFP, AP)