KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: South America may be hedging its bets over support for Gianni Infantino in Friday’s FIFA presidential election.
Back in January the executive committee of continental confederation CONMEBOL was happy to endorse the UEFA general secretary for the succession to departing Sepp Blatter at the head of the world football federation.
However Fernando Sarney, Brazil’s new representative on the FIFA executive committee, has spoken warmly about Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa here in Zurich while new CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez appeared to back-track on the Infantino pledge.
Sarney, who attended an exco meeting for the first time today, said: “My understanding is that Sheikh Salman is the favourite.”
Sarney’s father was President of Brazil in the late 1980s when fellow Brazilian Joao Havelange was leader of FIFA.
Dominguez said that CONMEBOL’s vote remained “a secret” and its 10 members would make a confirmatory decision only at their own confederation conference here in Zurich tomorrow/Thursday morning.
At least Uruguay is standing by Plan A. AUF president Wilmar Valdez countered his CONMEBOL colleagues’ sudden reticence by declaring his support for Infantino who has a decisive lead in an early interim survey organised by the AFP agency among all FIFA’s federations.
Infantino was assessed ith 68 votes following by Sheikh Salman on 28, both far ahead of Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan on four.
The 45-year-old Swiss also rejected criticism from Sheikh Salman of the development cash pledges in his manifesto.
Infantino has proposed $5m over the next three years for each member FA to invest in development and running costs, more than double the curent allocation. He has also suggested a further $1m of assistance for minnows nations in far-flung corner of the world game.
Sheikh Salman had said that Infantino’s proposals “will bankrupt us” but Infantino insisted his $1bn pledge was perfectly affordable.
He said: “What is promised is not only feasible but easy to deliver and FIFA will be as financially stable as never before.
“My objective is also to increase significantly the revenues of FIFA. I think my track record in UEFA speaks for itself in this respect.”