The Elephant in the FIFA Room and the Caribbean Delegates
There are two unresolved questions here in Zurich with days to go before the biggest election in FIFA’s history.
The two front runners are Gianni Infantino and Sheikh Salman. They both have the official support of two confederations: Salman his own Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the African Confederation (CAF). Infantino – Europe (UEFA) and Latin America (CONMEBOL).
Most of the discussions, media spinning, rumours, etc in this city is about whether Salman’s support is declining and Infantino is gaining: or, conversely, whether Infantino’s campaign is over and he is trying to figure out whether he should take the Secretary-General position of FIFA to Salman’s presidency.
For the record, the above stories are speculation and what really matters is the massive elephant in the election room: will the Swiss Police and the US FBI arrest delegates, as they have done at the last two FIFA congresses in this city?
If there are more police raids, then all bets are off the table. The delegates could become so frightened they will vote for anyone who promises change – like Prince Ali – or they may become so frightened that they will vote for anyone who promises no substantive change (note: all the candidates promise change, yet some – like Sheikh Salman and Tokyo Sexwale – sing the praises of Blatter’s administration sending a potential covert signal of ‘business as usual’ to delegates).
The second unresolved question is what about the Caribbean delegates?
There is only one large confederation left that has not pledged its support – North and Central America’s CONCACAF. Thirty-one of CONCACAF countries are in the Caribbean. Most are relatively poor. Most are small. Some of them were in the room in 2011, during the infamous “if you want to be pious start a church speech” when Jack Warner told them to take the $40,000 offered to them by Mohammed bin Hammam for “football development”.
Now – not to say that there is even the remotest possibility of vote-selling in this all important FIFA election. I am sure that all the CONCACAF leaders are decent and honest people, but if they had to choose a time get the most value for their prospective support – they have timed it well.