Sepp Blatter's African backing 'will seal re-election'

CAF says Blatter will always find a friend in Africa as Fifa's presidential election draws near

(Image credit: Getty)

He may be considered a bad joke in Europe but in Africa Sepp Blatter is seen as a very good thing, and on Tuesday the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) told the Fifa chief he can rely on the continent at next month's presidential election.

The 79-year-old Blatter is seeking a fifth term in office and though he faces strong challenges from Fifa vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Michael van Praag, head of the Dutch Football Association, and the former Portugal international Luís Figo, the Swiss received the whole-hearted endorsement of Issa Hayatou on Tuesday.

In an address to open the CAF annual congress in Cairo, president Hayatou told Blatter: "Dear Sepp, I want to reiterate that here in Africa you are never on some strange or hostile territory. You shall always be at home here, on this continent. … Africa is comfortable having you. Africa stays with you."

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It was a welcome that was in sharp contrast to the hostile reception Blatter received last month at the Uefa Congress in Vienna. On that occasion he was "accused of being authoritarian, not spending enough of Fifa's wealth and tarnishing the world body's image."

Blatter, who was present during Hayatou's address, had earlier used a column in the latest edition of Fifa Weekly to lavish praise on CAF, writing: "The refreshing skills and technical finesse of the African teams are among the greatest attractions at the World Cup."

While The Guardian says the "individual countries do not have to follow Hayatou's directive", most are expected to vote for Blatter. Africa contains 54 of Fifa's 209 member countries eligible to vote in the presidential election on 29 May, making it the largest of the six continental confederations.

According to Sky Sports, Hayatou's pledge "appears certain" to result in Blatter's re-election, a heavy blow for the football fans and administrators who regarded the ageing Swiss as overseeing an institution that is no longer fit for purpose following the controversy over the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

It will also leave Blatter's rivals despairing that he can ever be budged from his position. On Sunday Figo had called on Africa to help him shake up the sport's governing body, saying: "This is a moment of change and I wish African federations think [about] the future of the organisation and the future of football. There's no need to fear change because change will be for the better of African and world football."

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