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No CONCACAF endorsement in FIFA vote yet

Miami: A meeting of the ruling body for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) ended here Friday with no decision over who the federation may back in the upcoming FIFA presidential election, a senior official said.

After two days of meetings which included presentations from four of the five men vying for world football's top job, CONCACAF deputy general secretary Jurgen Mainka said the body had not decided if the federation would give blanket endorsement to a particular candidate. However Mainka raised the possibility of CONCACAF eventually giving firm backing, saying the issue may be discussed at a meeting in Zurich on the eve of the February 26 FIFA vote.

"It wasn't touched upon on the agenda, we do have an extraordinary congress the day before the FIFA election, something could happen over there, but I'm not privy to that," Mainka told reporters. CONCACAF officials had met to discuss a proposed package of FIFA reforms. Mainka said the region had given "unanimous support" to the FIFA overhaul.

UEFA executive Gianni Infantino and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa are widely seen as frontrunners for the FIFA vote, ahead of Jordan's Prince Ali bin al Hussein, South Africa's Tokyo Sexwale and France's Jerome Champagne. All of the candidates except Sexwale gave presentations to CONCACAF officials on Thursday in Miami.

CONCACAF has been at the heart of football's global corruption scandal, with former president Jeffrey Webb and his successor Alfredo Hawit both arrested last year in separate raids in Switzerland prompted by a US-led investigation. Webb's predecessor as CONCACAF chief, Jack Warner, is also charged in the investigation and is fighting against extradition to the United States from his native Trinidad. In his address to CONCACAF delegates in Miami on Thursday, Prince Ali said the region should not be blamed for the actions of its leaders.

Prince Ali welcomed CONCACAF's apparent reluctance to vote as a block as it had done under former President Warner. "I think that it is the best thing, and that it's the way things should be," Prince Ali said. "It is not a confederation election - it is a FIFA election."

Pivotal battleground
CONCACAF represents 35 of the 209 votes which will be cast in the FIFA election, making the region a potentially pivotal battleground in the race to succeed ousted president Sepp Blatter. Sheikh Salman is likely to carry support from Asia and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has already said it plans to back the Bahraini official.

Together, Asia and Africa hold 100 votes in the FIFA election. Infantino, meanwhile, is expected to win backing from the majority of Europe's 53 members and has also secured an endorsement from South America's governing body CONMEBOL (10 votes) and the regional grouping of Central American federations, UNCAF, (7 votes). The leader of the Caribbean Football Union -- which accounts for 25 of CONCACAF's 35 votes -- said Friday it had not decided who to back in the election.

"No, we haven't decided, we have listened and we are listening to all the candidates and we will be discussing it amongst our members eventually, about who we will actually support come the next couple of weeks," CFU President Gordon Derrick said. If any candidate in the FIFA race secures a two thirds majority in the first round they win the election outright. If not, voting goes to a second round where a simple majority prevails.

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