FIFA Presidential candidate Luis Figo has dismissed claims from Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou that all 54 African nations will vote for Sepp Blatter in the upcoming election.
The former Portuguese international will challenge the incumbent Blatter for the top role in world football, alongside Jordanian Football Association President Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) President Michael van Praag, when the election is held in Zurich on May 29.
“I'm positive that Mr Hayatou did not speak in the name of the 54 members of the confederation,” Figo said.
“Even when he announced he would support Blatter, we could notice a difference from past Congresses when a statement like that normally is followed by a standing ovation.
“This time we heard just a normal applause, which confirms my idea that a lot of African countries understand and agree with the need to change for the better of everyone, especially the national associations.”
Figo was responding to the comments made by Hayatou, who is also a FIFA vice-president, as he appeared to suggest during the CAF Congress in Cairo that every one of the 54 African member nations would vote for Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term in office.
The Swiss’ tenure has been plagued with allegations of corruption, particularly surrounding the World Cup bidding process, but he has maintained the support of Africa throughout, with Hayatou a long-standing ally.
The former Real Madrid and Barcelona star also claimed he has assurances from some Federations that they will in fact vote for him come election time as he bids to oust Blatter from a position he has held since 1998.
“There were Federation presidents who assured me they would vote for me but they were reluctant to say this out loud because they feared reactions against them, their Federations and even their countries,” Figo added.
“To end this kind of atmosphere is why I decided to be a candidate.
“Football should be about a beautiful game and people should be able to express themselves freely and openly.”
During the Congress, CAF also voted unanimously to remove an age limit on officials, which paved the way for 68-year-old Cameroonian Hayatou to continue as CAF President.
The previous limit was 70 and as a result Hayatou, who was elected in 1988, will potentially be able to prolong his spell in charge by standing in the CAF election in 2017.