Salman and his rivals are in Africa this week (Getty)

(WFI) Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa expects “remarkable surprises” in the FIFA presidential election vote and denies he is using Bahraini government funding for his campaign.

The Asian Football Confederation chief is vying for the FIFA job against Jerome Champagne, Gianni Infantino, Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein and Tokyo Sexwale in the Feb. 26 election.

While Salman declines to put a figure on the number of endorsements he has racked up from FIFA’s 209 member federations, he believes Asia is in his back pocket and African FAs are coming on board to back his vision to clean up FIFA.

“He is comfortable that the vast majority of Asia are backing him,” Salman’s spokesman tells INSIDER.

“He expects there to be remarkable surprises coming from confederations that are presently expected to go for a competing candidate.”

After Infantino shut the door on any deal with Salman, who last week refused to rule out any alliances as the election looms, the Asian football chief now says he’s not entertaining any deals with the UEFA general secretary or Sexwale, the outsider in the race.

“This is not a time for talking deals,” the spokesman told INSIDER.

“Tokyo is a good man with a strong political background. He is wise enough to take the right decision at the right time. There have not been discussions to make deals.”

Winning African Support

Sheikh Salman is confident of tapping up support in Africa this week, the key battleground in the battle to replace Sepp Blatter. All five FIFA presidential candidates will be working the Confederation of African Football meeting in Kigali on Friday to try and win over Africa’s 54 voters.

“His talks with most of the CAF membership were very positive. He is positive about a strong support by CAFs members,” Salman’s spokesman said.

CAF and the AFC signed a partnership agreement in January to share knowledge and best practices to grow the game on their respective continents.

“The member Associations of CAF and AFC share many challenges, who require a strong foundation of grassroot and infrastructure development. Shaikh Salman is well versed on these challenges as he was the head of the Bahraini FA and the head of the AFC,” Salman’s spokesman said.

Campaign Funding Questions

With Infantino making clear last week that he is using 500,000 euros ($542,000) from UEFA finances to fund his push for the FIFA hot seat, Salman and Prince Ali have come under pressure in particular to clarify how they are funding their campaigns. Millionaire businessman Sexwale is privately funding his low-key bid.

Champagne tells INSIDER he is funding his own bid and says Infantino and Salman should be relieved of their UEFA and AFC duties while waging their FIFA bids. “I think that the FIFA electoral code should include stricter rules regarding finances since it is authorized for a candidate holding one official position to stay in that position during the campaign,” he said.

Salman insists he is not using any Bahraini government finance to bankroll his quest to land the top job in world football.

“At present and from the outset, he is not and has not been using, nor has he requested, government funding,” the spokesman said.

“ So far, he has been financing his campaign himself, being a private citizen and not a member of government. He is not likely to request any funding at all from government but may approach friends and family further down the road if it becomes necessary.”

“All expenditures are carried by Shaikh Salman.”

Prince Ali was asked by INSIDER how much support he is receiving from Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai, who is married to the Jordanian’s sister Princess Haya – and whether he was using one of the Prime Minister of the UAE’s private jets.

“Support for the campaign is coming from family and friends and the ad hoc electoral committee was informed of this,” Ali’s spokesman told INSIDER. “At times travel is undertaken on private jets, at other times on commercial flights.”

Prince Ali is not using any Jordanian government funding for his campaign, he added.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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