Issa Hayatou won't publicly back any FIFA presidential candidates

ZURICH -- FIFA's African vice president Issa Hayatou said Tuesday he is not publicly backing a candidate in the election to succeed Sepp Blatter.

The Confederation of African Football has seemed unlikely to unite behind its own contender, though it has more than one-quarter of FIFA's member federations. South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale said last month he is "weighing all options" before the Oct. 26 deadline to be nominated by five of the 209 FIFA members.

Still, Hayatou declined to endorse the former anti-apartheid activist's chances when asked by the Associated Press. "It's a decision for Africa to support a candidate. It's not for me to support someone," said Hayatou, who has been CAF president for 27 years.

Hayatou said he spoke by telephone with Sexwale but doesn't know the intentions of the FIFA discrimination task force member.

Sexwale, a longtime confidante of Nelson Mandela, probably would need most of CAF's 54 votes to challenge current election front-runner Michel Platini. UEFA has cited support for its president Platini from voters in four of FIFA's six continental bodies, though not Africa where Blatter traditionally had a strong base.

Sexwale has the closest current ties to Blatter among potential candidates in the Feb. 26 election. Blatter promoted him in May to help improve relations between the Israeli and Palestinian football federations.

Africa's position in the election should become clearer after Hayatou chairs a scheduled meeting of the CAF executive committee in Cairo on Oct. 27 -- the day after nominations close. When the CAF executive committee last met on Aug. 6, it rejected a request by Liberia federation president Musa Bility to back his proposed campaign to lead FIFA. Hayatou, now FIFA's senior vice president, is thought unlikely to make a second bid for the top job.

The 69-year-old from Cameroon was well beaten by Blatter in the 2002 election, which was held after a corruption scandal and financial crisis provoked by the collapse of ISL, a marketing agency which sold World Cup broadcast rights.