BERLIN (Reuters) – The German Football Association said on Wednesday it was backing FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino in his bid to lead global football out of its current crisis.
The Swiss general secretary of European soccer body UEFA is one of five candidates for the Feb. 26 election, taking place amid the worst crisis in FIFA’s history.
There is no clear favourite, but Infantino would have a head start if he were to capture the majority of the 53 European votes. Each of FIFA’s national associations holds one vote.
“Gianni Infantino is the Europeans’ candidate and the best one,” said DFB interim co-president Reinhard Rauball after a board meeting earlier on Wednesday.
“Through his work as general secretary of UEFA he knows all aspects of the game, has outstanding international connections and speaks six languages.”
Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne of France, South African businessman and politician Tokyo Sexwale and Jordanian former FIFA executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan are Infantino’s rivals.
“With his reputation and experience he meets the necessary conditions for structural changes and to take on the challenges ahead,” said Rauball of Infantino.
Forty-one individuals, many of them national association presidents, and entities have been indicted in the United States for corruption and money-laundering, and FIFA’s own ethics committee has banned leading officials including president Sepp Blatter, barred for eight years.
The German FA is the biggest football federation in the world in terms of membership of individuals and clubs. But it has been dealing with its own scandal related to the 2006 world Cup that forced the resignation of Rauball’s predecessor Wolfgang Niersbach late last year.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Hugh Lawson)