CAIRO: Every one of Africa’s 54 member countries will vote for Sepp Blatter in next month’s FIFA presidential election, the continent’s soccer boss said on Tuesday, referring to the 79-year-old Swiss as “dear Sepp.”
In front of Blatter’s three challengers, Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football, promised unanimous support in his speech to open CAF’s annual congress in Cairo.
“Africa is comfortable having you. Africa stays with you,” Hayatou said, according to a transcript of his comments provided by CAF.
Blatter was also present, and made a speech to the African football leaders in his role as FIFA president.
Although the individual countries don’t have to follow Hayatou’s directive, Africa is expected to be a strong base of support for Blatter.
With 54 of the 209 FIFA member countries eligible to vote in the presidential election in Zurich on May 29, Africa is the largest of the six continental confederations.
The praise Blatter received in Egypt contrasted to his uncomfortable reception at the UEFA congress last month, when his presidency was criticized by the three candidates standing against him, and some European officials.
Hayatou, a FIFA vice president and now an ally of Blatter after failing to unseat him in 2002, made an apparent reference to that UEFA congress on Tuesday.
“Dear Sepp,” he said. “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.”
Blatter is seeking a fifth term in office to extend a reign that began in 1998. FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Dutch FA head Michael van Praag, and former Portugal international Luis Figo are standing against him.
Those three challengers won’t be addressing CAF delegates like they did at UEFA’s congress. CAF said the three were attending merely as “observers.”
In his speech, Blatter reflected on Africa’s achievements during his time as FIFA president, including the continent’s first World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
He said Cameroon’s Hayatou, who has led CAF for 27 years despite allegations of corruption and an official reprimand by the IOC, was a “pillar” of African football, according to CAF.