REUTERS – The president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, has formally entered the race to become FIFA president, the Bahrain News Agency reported on Sunday.
The agency said Sheikh Salman had submitted his paperwork to FIFA headquarters on Sunday, a day ahead of the deadline for candidates to deliver the nominations from five football associations.
The Bahraini, who is closely allied with Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in international sports politics and a key figure in the Olympic movement, had canvassed opinion from Asian football associations last week.
Sheikh Salman had initially backed Michel Platini, the UEFA president. But the Frenchman’s troubles, which originated with a 2011 payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.04 million) from Blatter’s FIFA for work done nine years earlier, have dramatically changed the electoral landscape.
Earlier this month, Platini was handed a 90-day provisional ban from football by FIFA’s Ethics Committee — a decision which has quickly led to his support dissipating.
Platini has appealed the ban and could yet be let back into the race for the Feb. 26 vote if he is successful in overturning the judgement.
Sheikh Salman will face another member of Arab royalty in the election with Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein have already submitted his nominations.
On Saturday, South African former Apartheid-era political prisoner turned businessman Tokyo Sexwale announced he would be standing in the election after winning backing from the South African Football Association.
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 Platini.
Zico, the former Brazilian World Cup player, has said he wants to stand but it is not known if he has been able to receive the necessary support.
FIFA has been rocked by the U.S Department of Justice’s decision on May 27 to indict 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives in a corruption investigation.
Swiss authorities are also investigating FIFA while FIFA’s Ethics Committee has handed out several bans.
($1 = 0.9780 Swiss francs)
(By Simon Evans, Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ian Ransom)