CAPE TOWN – South African Fifa presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale said on Monday he is a realist who is “open to negotiations and alliances” ahead of Friday’s vote in Zurich.
Sexwale, whose campaign has failed to gain traction, is the first candidate in the process to suggest he could be interested in striking a deal.
The millionaire businessman is up against Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, former Fifa deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne, Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino in the race to lead world soccer’s governing body.
Fifa is embroiled in a corruption scandal that has led to indictments against several dozen senior officials in the United States. Long-term president Sepp Blatter has been banned for eight years for ethics violations.
“What is important for me is I’m in the top five (candidates). But I am also still a realist and I’m open to negotiations and alliances,” he told a news conference after visiting Robben Island jail with Infantino.
Sexwale was a close friend of the late former South African president Nelson Mandela, the pair having spent 13 years together at the prison off Cape Town.
He was a member of the African National Congress and a post-apartheid government minister before moving into business and becoming involved with Fifa’s Anti-Discrimination Task Force.
He said he expected his country to vote for him after South African media reports suggested the country’s football association would be backing Sheikh Salman instead. The South African Football Association (Safa)has made no comment.
Sexwale’s bid for support from elsewhere in Africa fell flat this month when the Confederation of African Football instead endorsed Sheikh Salman.
Asked about his chances, Sexwale said: “It’s like the Vatican, you never know what will come out. But at least I will have South Africa’s vote because they told the world at a press conference (in October) that I was their candidate. I guess they will vote for me because they said so but because it (the ballot) is held behind a curtain you never know for who they cast their vote.”
Last month, Sexwale was summoned to meet South African Football Association leadership about the state of his campaign. They wanted answers about Sexwale’s election tactics after they had helped him obtain the five nominations needed to stand to replace Blatter.
The 62-year-old Sexwale sounded upbeat on Monday.
“Others have said they will back me but said ‘please don’t tell the world’. It’s a secretive process,” he said.