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South Africa's Sexwale Launches FIFA Bid

  • Reuters

South African businessman and former political prisoner Tokyo Sexwale speaks during a media briefing at SAFA house in Johannesburg, October 27, 2015.

South African businessman and former political prisoner Tokyo Sexwale speaks during a media briefing at SAFA house in Johannesburg, October 27, 2015.

South Africa's Tokyo Sexwale, who was a close friend of Nelson Mandela, said on Tuesday he wanted to repair the "severely undermined" FIFA brand as he confirmed he was standing for the presidency of world soccer's governing body.

Sexwale, who spent 13 years with the late president at the Robben Island prison, was a member of the ruling African National Congress party and a post-apartheid government minister before moving into business.

He has been a member of FIFA's anti-discrimination task force, has conducted talks between the Palestinian and Israeli federations, and was a member of the bid team and the organizing committee for the 2010 World Cup, the first held in Africa.

"Having spent time inside FIFA, I am more than ready to take on the world," Sexwale told a news conference confirming he was running in the Feb. 26 vote to replace Sepp Blatter after Monday's candidacy deadline.

"I think it was a vote of confidence by people who I can only say understand who I am and what I will be able to bring to football. FIFA, the organization of the beautiful game, is damaged. The brand is severely undermined."

FIFA is embroiled in the worst scandal of its 111-year history, with the United States having indicted several FIFA officials for bribery, money laundering and wire fraud in May.

Swiss authorities are also investigating the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. Both countries deny any wrongdoing.

Blatter and Michel Platini, president of European soccer's governing body UEFA, who had been favorite to succeed him, have been suspended for 90 days pending a full investigation by FIFA's Ethics Committee. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Sexwale said he would head to Cairo after the news conference to seek the support of the Confederation of African Football as he faces off against candidates including Asian soccer chief Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain, and Gianni Infantino, general secretary of Europe's governing body UEFA.

"I am going into this campaign as a candidate of my country with the confidence bestowed in me to make sure that we win. But win or lose people will know that there was an African who was here who shook things up," Sexwale said.

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