Zurich - UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino entered the
race for FIFA president on Monday as Asian soccer chief Sheikh Salman Bin
Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain declared he had also put himself forward.
The surprise announcement from the executive committee of
the European soccer authority that it was backing Infantino came ahead of the
midnight CET deadline for candidates to register nominations for the presidency
of world soccer's crisis-torn governing body. The FIFA election is scheduled to
take place in Zurich on Feb. 26.
FIFA is embroiled in the worst scandal of its 111-year
history, the United States having indicted several FIFA officials for bribery,
money laundering and wire fraud in May.
Swiss authorities are also investigating the decision to
award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Earlier this month, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA
president Michel Platini, who had been favourite to succeed him, were suspended
for 90 days pending a full investigation by FIFA's Ethics Committee.
Also read: UEFA 'worried' by Italian match-fixing
Platini would not be able to be officially named a candidate
while under suspension but FIFA has left the door ajar for him to run should he
later win an appeal against his ban.
In the meantime, UEFA has opted to make sure they have a
candidate in the race.
"We are delighted that Gianni has agreed to stand and
he knows that he has our full support in his campaign to become FIFA
President," said UEFA in a statement.
"We believe that Gianni Infantino has all of the
qualities required to tackle the major challenges ahead and to lead the
organisation on a path of reform to restore FIFA's integrity and
A multilingual lawyer, shaven-headed Infantino joined UEFA
in 2000 and has been general secretary since 2009.
He has overseen the implementation of the complicated and
controversial Financial Fair Play policy, a break-even rule which clubs are
required to meet before they can take part in European competition.
SCRAMBLE FOR NOMINATIONS
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said in a statement
it had offered overwhelming support to Sheikh Salman who had assured it
"that his campaign will be entirely self-financed".
The Bahraini, closely allied to Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad
Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in the Olympic movement,
canvassed opinion from Asian associations last week.
On Saturday, South Africa's Tokyo Sexwale, a former
Apartheid-era political prisoner turned businessman, announced he would stand.
A spokesman confirmed Sexwale had the necessary five nominations.
Former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid says he has
submitted his papers to FIFA, along with former FIFA deputy general secretary
Jerome Champagne and Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.
Liberia's Musa Bility has said he wants to run. His chances
suffered a setback when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) refused to
back him, but on Monday the BBC reported that he had the five nominations
necessary to stand.
Former Brazil international Zico has been campaigning but
has admitted he is struggling to get the backing of five FAs.
Another candidate, South Korea's Chung Mong-Joon, pulled out
of the race on Monday. A scion of South Korea's Hyundai industrial
conglomerate, Chung was banned from the sport for six years by FIFA, after an
investigation into the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the
2022 tournament to Qatar.
"Even though I can no longer stand for FIFA President,
there is much left for me to do," Chung said. "I will continue to
work with all those who love football to bring about legitimate changes from
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