French federation backs Gianni Infantino for FIFA president
PARIS -- In the absence of the banned Michel Platini, the French Football Federation is supporting Gianni Infantino in his bid to become the next FIFA president.
Federation president Noel Le Graet said 11 of the 12 members of its executive committee have agreed to support the UEFA general secretary in the Feb. 26 election.
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"Gianni has all the qualities required to succeed," including "experience, talent, strength at work, and beliefs," Le Graet said in a statement on Friday.
Infantino has been pledged support from a big majority of the 53 members in Europe, plus from CONMEBOL.
The other candidates are former FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France, and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale.
Le Graet also praised Infantino's "ambitious programme" to restore FIFA's poor image.
"Gianni wants to preserve democracy and equality between the 209 federations, this is a strong line in his commitments and his plan for the future of FIFA, to which French football is also attaching importance," Le Graet said.
Infantino entered the race last October after Platini, the UEFA president, was implicated in wrongdoing over a $2 million payment from FIFA in 2011 for uncontracted salary as an adviser to Blatter, who was also later banned.
Le Graet and Champagne were reportedly involved in a spat this week during a meeting in a restaurant after the FFF president told the candidate he would support Infantino.
Champagne, a former FIFA international relations director, said Le Graet insulted him after he made clear he would contest the president's choice. According to Le Parisien newspaper, Le Graet then used an expletive before leaving the table and paying the bill.