Football: Van Praag hoping for Conmebol backing in Fifa election

(REUTERS) - Michael van Praag hopes to win South America's support in the Fifa presidential election despite the region's endorsement of incumbent Sepp Blatter, he said in Asuncion on Wednesday.

Van Praag was in Paraguay's capital for the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) congress, the first stop on the campaign trail for the four candidates in the May 29 election to decide the most influential position in football.

The 68-year-old president of Dutch football's governing body KNVB is proposing changes including a 40-team World Cup finals tournament, adding one nation from each confederation plus the title holders.

"The only federations that I've been talking to was yesterday, the Conmebol federations. They are very much interested in football issues. Of course transparency has changed, that is also the feel that I got, that they want change. I have a good feeling about our meetings yesterday, that's all that I can say, and of course they didn't disclose what they are going to do. I can understand that, because there are still two and a half months to go. So, they have all the time to come together again and to make up their mind. But I gave them a programme, I have a printed programme in Spanish, so that is also not a problem. And I hope, and I had a feeling that they liked it, and I hope that is the truth. We must wait and see."

He also addressed the controversy surrounding the searing heat expected for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, explaining that the move to change the tournament to cooler winter months was out of his hands.

"You see that process is already in action, and there is nothing that I can do about it. There has been a working group for that and they have come to the conclusion that it should go to November/December. For a lot of countries, that is a problem, also for my country. But yeah, we have to see what is at stake and what the damages are. And then, I believe Fifa should at least compensate federations and clubs who have a problem here and have damage," he told international news agency reporters.

Fifa awarded the tournament to the tiny Middle Eastern country in a controversial decision in 2010, with the understanding that it would be held in the summer despite the sweltering heat.

Van Praag attended the congress as a guest along with Blatter and the other presidential candidates, former Portugal winger Luis Figo, and Fifa vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan