Football: Fifa approves five presidential candidates, Platini pending

(Clockwise from top left) Champagne, Sexwale,  Infantino and Sheik Salman are approved, together with Prince Ali Al Hussein.
(Clockwise from top left) Champagne, Sexwale, Infantino and Sheik Salman are approved, together with Prince Ali Al Hussein.REUTERS, AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - Fifa on Thursday approved five candidates to stand in February's vote to replace Sepp Blatter as president of world football's governing body, but Michel Platini has not yet made the list.

The five who met the qualification criteria following a series of integrity tests were: Prince Ali Al Hussein, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Jerome Champagne, Gianni Infantino and Tokyo Sexwale, a Fifa statement said.

The candidacy of Platini, the suspended head of European football who had been the favourite to succeed Blatter, will be examined once his 90-day suspension by Fifa's ethics committee is over.

The only candidate to be disqualified after receiving provisional approval was Musa Bility, the head of the Liberian football association.

"The Ad-hoc Electoral Committee did not admit the candidature of Musa Hassan Bility, in view of the content of the integrity check report relating to him," the statement said.

Fifa said it had explained the reasons for disqualification privately to Bility, but it would not make the specifics public.

The race is thought to be wide open given Platini's potential ethics violations, including a probe over a murky €1.8 million (S$2.7 million) payment he received from Fifa in 2011.

His suspension triggered a flurry of activity with the powerful Asian football chief Sheikh Salman, former Fifa official Champagne, South African anti-apartheid campaigner Sexwale, Uefa general secretary Infantino and Bility all throwing their hats into the ring.

The race is likely to be heavily shaped by whether Platini is ultimately admitted, with Infantino indicating he would stand aside if his Uefa boss qualifies for the vote.

Later Thursday, Platini released details of 60 personalities who have signed a letter supporting his candidacy for football's top job, including former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier.

Platini invoked Liverpool fans' famous Anfield battle cry as a means to thank his backers.

"I want to thank all the signatories of this letter for their support," he told News Tank Football website.

"Their initiative touched me and further strengthens my resolve (to be Fifa president) - I will never walk alone."

Platini's lawyers, meanwhile, told AFP that their client was "astounded" how slow the process was for Fifa to decide on his appeal against the suspension.

The appeal was lodged with Fifa by the lawyers on Oct 10.

"Mr Platini is astounded that Fifa's appeal commission, with whom he lodged an appeal several weeks ago, still has not made a decision," said a statement from Platini's lawyers.

"This surprising delay is totally inconsistent with the urgency invoked by the ethics committee to justify the provisional sanction imposed on him.

"Mr Platini remains a confirmed candidate for the Fifa presidency."