ZURICH (AP) — FIFA asked presidential candidates to provide details of their intended victory speeches ahead of Friday's election in a bid to keep them on message while the governing body tries to repair its scandal-tarnished image.
The five contenders, who met at a FIFA gathering on Wednesday, were also been provided with suggested answers to use in the post-vote news conference.
FIFA's administration has brought in American lawyers and communications advisers while trying to preserve its victim status in U.S. criminal corruption investigations.
But Gianni Infantino, one of the men in the running to succeed Sepp Blatter as president, said he will resist any attempts by FIFA to control what he says if victorious on Friday.
"Everyone can propose whatever they want, I will say whatever I want," Infantino said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I am my own man. I have always been like this. I am presenting a program. I will have a speech.
"And if I am elected I will stand in front of all of you (media) ... without any fear and say what I think and what should be done for FIFA and for world football."
FIFA sees its request as necessary to ensure the new president protects the damaged institution and delivers key corporate messages that demonstrate the organization's commitment to reform.
"I am not troubled (by the request), I can even understand they want to organize everything in a Swiss-German way," Infantino said. "I know how to deal with these matters."
Infantino's main challenger in the vote of FIFA's 209 members is Asian soccer president Sheikh Salman of Bahrain. Former FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale are also in the running.
Here is a selection of the comments FIFA provided for candidates to use if they become president in two documents which have been seen by the AP:
FROM FIFA'S "MESSAGING TOOLKIT" FOR CANDIDATES
— "FIFA remains committed to cooperating with the ongoing investigations by the relevant authorities. This process is essential in restoring the reputation of the organization"
— "By the time of the 2018 FIFA World Cup we will have established FIFA as a modern, trusted, professional organization that is fit for purpose."
PREPARATION FOR POTENTIAL QUESTIONS IN POST-ELECTION NEWS CONFERENCE
Q. "Do you think this was an open and transparent presidential campaign given the fact there was no public debate between the candidates?"
A. "Every candidate had ample opportunity to make public their vision for FIFA's future and I am confident that the election was a fair and transparent process."
Q. (based on a close result) "The election shows there was not strong support for a single candidate. Does this represent a challenge for you taking this role?"
A. "Many qualified candidates, all of whom want the best for FIFA, vied for the position of FIFA president. I am honored to be elected today. Now the election has passed I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues and working together to help FIFA fulfil its mission to promote and develop the game globally."
Q. (if there's a landslide result) "The fact that you have been elected by acclamation confirms that there is no democracy at FIFA."
A. "The member associations have decided and as such we need to respect their decision."
In response to a question about the powers of the president
—"There is a separation of powers. The president's role will be strategic, ambassadorial and no longer executive"
Q. (On criminal investigations) "Do you believe the Swiss should be cooperating with the U.S.?"
A. "I will leave it to the investigating authorities to decide how they work together. I will have no further comment on investigations or related matters."
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