Johannesburg: African football has formally endorsed Sepp Blatter for another four-year term at the helm of FIFA, delivering a severe blow to the hopes of his Qatari challenger Mohamed Bin Hammam.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said its executive committee, at a meeting in Cairo on Monday, had held a secret ballot and passed a motion to support Blatter in the Zurich election on June 1.
"Following a secret ballot, the CAF executive committee voted in the majority to support the incumbent," a brief statement from Cairo said.
With Africa now on board, the 75-year-old Swiss has secured the backing of four of the six confederations that make up world soccer`s governing body.
CAF`s decision follows similar endorsements from UEFA`s executive committee, as well as the 11 members of Oceania and 10 from South America.
Blatter is hoping to secure a fourth term with victory over his Qatari opponent in an election AT which each of FIFA`s 208 member associations have a single vote.
Africa`s backing, however, is not cast in stone as member countries have been known to oppose the CAF`s recommendation in a previous election.
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.
Blatter is due to meet more than 40 African soccer 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.
Blatter, who has promised to step down after a fourth term if successful, would meet with Africa`s regional controlling bodies on Friday and the association leaders on Saturday, South African Football Association officials told reporters.
Ordinarily, Bin Hammam would have hoped for the support of Africa, where he has close ties with many key officials but Monday`s decision further undermines his campaign to become the first Asian to head the 107-year-old organisation.