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Salman buoyant heading into final FIFA campaign stretch

FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa attends an interview with Reuters in Panama City, Panama, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rafael Ibarra/Files
FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa attends an interview with Reuters in Panama City, Panama, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rafael Ibarra/Files

By Simon Evans

LONDON (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa says he will enter the final stretch of the election campaign in confident mood after receiving "significant support around the world".

The Bahraini Royal is one of two front-runners for the top job at the corruption-plagued ruling body of soccer along with UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino of Switzerland.

FIFA will vote for their new leader at a congress in Zurich on Feb. 26.

"I have been in constant contact with colleagues within the FIFA ExCo (executive committee), in the other confederations, and around the world," Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Salman said in a statement on Thursday.

"I have also done a lot of travelling outside Asia: to Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa. I have received significant support around the world and am happy with how the campaign has gone so far.

"I go into the final week with confidence for the future of FIFA," he added.

World football's governing body is facing an unprecedented crisis after 41 individuals and entities were indicted last year by the U.S. Department of Justice on a variety of corruption-related charges.

Swiss authorities are also investigating FIFA while the organisation's own Ethics Committee have banned several top officials including outgoing president Sepp Blatter and general secretary Jerome Valcke.

FORMAL BACKING

Salman has been given formal backing from the leaderships of the AFC and the African confederation (CAF) while Infantino has UEFA and the South American confederation CONMEBOL behind him.

Infantino flew to Malaysia to meet Asian officials this week in a bid to try to tempt some to abandon their regional president.

FIFA's 209 member national associations (FAs) each hold one vote. The six continental confederations do not vote even though four of them have nominated their preferred choice as leader.

The other presidential candidates are Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, Frenchman Jerome Champagne, the former deputy general secretary of FIFA, and South African businessman and politician Tokyo Sexwale.

Salman's campaign team issued a statement from Richard Lai of Guam, the AFC Marketing Committee chairman, urging Asian FAs to unite behind the Bahraini Royal.

"Our vision is One Asia, One Goal. Our goal is a united Asia and to demonstrate that we must unite behind our president in the FIFA election," said Lai.

"At present Asia has two candidates for the FIFA presidency. We must unite behind the one who will deliver these reforms and that is the AFC president.

"The AFC should not just support the reform process but be a part of it," added Lai.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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