South African businessman and former political prisoner Tokyo Sexwale is considering running for president of world football’s scandal-hit governing body FIFA, a spokesman told Reuters on Saturday.
“Mr Tokyo Sexwale has been approached to put his name forward as a candidate for the FIFA presidency by several highly placed personalities within the football fraternity including people from the private sector,” said Peter-Paul Ngwenya of the South African’s Global Watch foundation.
“He is in the process of consulting following which he will then make up his mind,” Ngwenya told Reuters by email.
A close friend of the late former South African president Nelson Mandela, the pair having spent 13 years together at the Robben Island prison, Tokyo Sexwale was a member of the African National Congress and was a post-apartheid government minister before moving into business.
The 62-year-old Tokyo Sexwale will hope to win strong support from Africa if he runs for FIFA’s top job.
Michel Platini, president of European football’s ruling body UEFA, has emerged as the early frontrunner in the race to replace Sepp Blatter as head of FIFA.
Football’s governing body was thrown into turmoil in May when 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including several from FIFA, were indicted in the United States on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Tokyo Sexwale has served on FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force and was a founding member of the Makana FA, the unofficial football organisation for apartheid-era prisoners on Robben Island.
“He is humbled and honoured by these approaches and does not regard these lightly as they emanate from people he respects and has confidence in,” said Ngwenya.
“Furthermore he regards the position of FIFA president as one with a heavy responsibility, more so at this time when FIFA is under a cloud following the corruption scandal.
“We are aware Mr Tokyo Sexwale believes in unity within FIFA in the Mandela way and he will therefore not involve his name if this will result in the perpetuation of divisions that will further damage the FIFA brand,” added Ngwenya.
South Korean Chung Mong-joon, former Brazil great Zico and Liberian FA president Musa Bility have announced they will run in the February presidential election.
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan is also considering running again after losing to Blatter in May’s vote.