Africa pledges support for Blatter

ZURICH - Africa became the fourth continent to back FIFA president Sepp Blatter's bid for re-election while the Swiss said that he could not lose.

Africa joined Europe, South America and Oceania in backing a fourth term for Blatter, who is being challenged by Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam.

Blatter also announced plans to make sure a woman sat on the FIFA Executive Committee if, as he expected, he won.

"I can't lose," Blatter, 75, was quoted as saying by German news agency DPA. "I have confidence in myself and confidence also that the associations will choose me for another four years.

"Until now, it has been a macho structure with 24 members," he added "We should create a women's quota and raise it 25 members."

He put forward Lydia Nsekera, president of the Burundi federation, as the first possible occupant of the new post.

Each national association holding one vote at the FIFA Congress, which will choose the president in Zurich on June 1.

Africa and Europe hold 53 apiece, while South America has 10 and Oceania 11, making a total of 127 which would be more than enough for what Blatter has already promised will be a final term.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced its decision.

"Following a secret ballot, the CAF executive committee voted in the majority to support the incumbent," a brief statement from Cairo said.

However, voting is secretive and national associations are not obliged to obey their regional confederation's orders, something which gives hope to Bin Hammam.

African countries, especially, have been known to ignore their confederation's recommendations in the past.

When Blatter was voted to power in 1998, the CAF executive campaigned vigorously for his Swedish opponent Lennart Johansson but the majority of Africa went against the regional body's wishes and helped the Swiss sweep to victory.

They also failed to give the expected backing to their own president Issa Hayatou when he challenged Blatter four years later.

Blatter is due to meet more than 40 African football association leaders in a hastily arranged conference in Johannesburg at the weekend, to discuss the legacy of last year's World Cup in South Africa.

In the DPA interview, Blatter also replied to criticism from Bin Hammam that he had not consulted the executive committee before last week's announcement of a 20 million euro donation to Interpol to help combat match-fixing and illegal betting.

"I can't call in the executive committee every time," he said. I'm an executive president who has been given the job by the executive committee and the FIFA Congress of keeping all illegal wheeling and dealing out of football."