South African Tokyo Sexwale has withdrawn from the election to become the new president of FIFA.
Sexwale had little chance of succeeding Sepp Blatter at the head of the world game and decided to stand aside prior to Friday’s vote.
His decision leaves Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, Gianni Infantino, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein and Jerome Champagne as the remaining four candidates.
Sexwale made the announcement as he brought to an end his speech to the FIFA Congress in Zurich.
The 62-year-old, who was imprisoned along with fellow apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela at the notorious Robben Island jail, said: “I’m a candidate of consensus, I’m a candidate of unity. I reflect the views of my country as a candidate of reconciliation.
“You don’t have to elect me as president. I’ve got a surprise for you – my campaign ends today and I suspend my participation.
“I leave only four people. It’s your problem now. Tokyo Sexwale will not go further to cause a division because I’m a candidate of bringing people together.
“Out of the four, decide which one we will elect as president and I will serve under such a man – one day I hope a president will be a woman. I believe in unity the Mandela way.”
Sexwale was arguably the most impressive of the five candidates to speak, insisting on using the entirety of his allotted time to address the floor.
He added: “I’m going to speak right until it is zero! Football is about the end. Maybe I’ll get optional time from the referee, I don’t know.
“Nelson Mandela once said to me that ‘when we are subjected to the kind of things that we are seeing – the media, the police, the FBI, everybody – it is not the right moment to start a fire in your own house’.
“I’m here to join all of you who stand behind the [new] president, to make sure that we are led by a man who is prepared to take us out of… where we are, so that we regain the trust of the public and the community out there, so that FIFA goes back to being the kind of credible organisation that it was when it was founded.”
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