Football: New head for scandal-hit South America federation

Alejandro Dominguez (left) greets a fellow official after he was unanimously elected.
Alejandro Dominguez (left) greets a fellow official after he was unanimously elected.PHOTO: REUTERS

ASUNCION (AFP) - South American soccer confederation Conmebol on Tuesday chose Paraguay football association chief Alejandro Dominguez as its new president, as three former heads face US indictments in the Fifa corruption scandal.

The South American Football Confederation is looking to clean its image after a scandal that saw its headquarters in Paraguay searched this month by investigators probing alleged bribes.

Football chiefs from Conmebol's 10 member countries, gathered at its headquarters near Asuncion, voted unanimously to choose Dominguez, 44, as its new leader until 2019.

They were also expected to back Swiss-Italian Gianno Infantino to succeed the suspended Joseph Blatter as president of world football's governing body Fifa.

"We thought that Alejandro Dominguez could take up the post of president in an atmosphere of unity," Conmebol's outgoing interim head, Wilmar Valdez of Uruguay, said in an address.

"We have to restore to South American football the credibility it deserves."

The confederation's last president, Miguel Angel Napout, also a Paraguayan, was one of 16 Latin American officials indicted by US authorities last month.

Among the others were another Paraguayan former Conmebol head, Nicolas Leoz, 87, and its Uruguayan former president Eugenio Figueredo, 83.

Leoz is under house arrest in Paraguay and Figueredo is in jail in Uruguay.

Both face requests for extradition over bribery allegations by US authorities which are investigating the scandal.

Napout was released on bail in New York in December.

The suspects are accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes in return for awarding broadcasting and commercial contracts for football tournaments.

The broader Fifa scandal has led to the suspension of numerous top officials including Blatter, Fifa's longtime president.

Valdez said there was a consensus to elect Dominguez as president "to work to get through this difficult situation."

Valdez himself stepped out of the running at the last minute, saying a consensus was needed to launch a cleaner new era for Conmebol.

On Monday, he called for "the implementation of transparency and oversight measures that guarantee the efficient and rigorous administration" of Conmebol.

The confederation is the umbrella group for 10 South American football associations.

Its headquarters had diplomatic immunity from 1992 but that privilege was withdrawn last year after the scandal erupted.

Another Conmebol source told AFP the body would back Infantino when Fifa chooses a new president in Zurich on Feb 26.

The acting head of European federation Uefa, Infantino also has the support of Uefa's executive committee.

He faces competition in his run for the Fifa presidency from Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, who has the likely backing of African countries for his bid.

Another Fifa candidate is Prince Ali of Jordan, who like Infantino was due to attend the Conmebol congress on Tuesday.