African federations endorse Blatter

JOHANNESBURG, May 21, 2011 (AFP) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter was endorsed by four African regional football federations Saturday for re-election as chief of the world football body ahead of the crucial June 1 vote in Zurich.

UNIFAC (central region) president Mahomed Iya read a declaration of support for Blatter, who is in the country to meet African football bosses to discuss the legacy of Africa's first FIFA World Cup in 2010.

FIFA president Joseph Sepp Blatter (L) and South Africa Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula give a media briefing in Johannesburg on May 21, 2011. AFP

"The national associations from various regions in Africa namely COSAFA (south), CECAFA (east), WAFU (west) and UNIFAC (central) gathered in Johannesburg ... declare full support for the re-election of Mr Sepp Blatter to further serve another term as from the 1st of June," said Iya after the meeting.

Blatter, who had told journalists that he was not on the continent seeking votes, said he was confident of re-election.

"I am confident especially after the support from the associations assembled here," he said before the declaration of support was read.

Blatter said the 2010 World Cup had more than doubled FIFA's $70 million investment to record a $144 million return on investment.

Some of the profit would go to a fund to be used by associations for the development of the sport, he said.

The heads of African federation showered Blatter with praise for bringing the World Cup to Africa, saying the event played a big role in improving negative perceptions about the continent.

"The benefits of the World Cup have filtered down to federations around the continent. We are seeing improved resources, which will help develop football talent," said CECAFA president Leodegar Tenga.

The 75-year-old Swiss is slugging it out with Qatari billionaire Mohamed bin Hammam, 13 years his junior, for the right to rule the international football kingdom over the coming four years.

There are 53 African votes up for grabs and many international observers believe the continent could hold the key to a race Blatter believes he "cannot lose" and Hammam rates a "50-50" duel.

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