GENEVA – Hours before the FIFA presidential election deadline, UEFA leaders met Monday in an emergency session to consider putting its general secretary in the race.
At the same time, a surprise second African contender entered the field while Asian soccer confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain was also set to run.
A plan for Gianni Infantino to enter the FIFA contest developed in talks with UEFA members over the weekend.
UEFA said its executive committee — without suspended president Michel Platini — talked strategy by video conference on Monday but declined to discuss details.
Liberian soccer association president Musa Bility told The Associated Press on Monday he sent FIFA nominations from the required five member federations, giving Africa two contenders in a growing lineup of up to seven men.
"I don't want to go into any race that I cannot win," said Bility, whose bid previously stalled after the African soccer confederation's executive committee declined to support him.
Platini had been viewed as the favorite with key backing from Asian soccer leaders, including Sheikh Salman. He filed nomination papers before being suspended by the FIFA ethics committee this month and could be barred as a candidate.
An Infantino candidacy could strengthen the Europe-Asia alliance in FIFA politics.
Though Infantino, a Swiss lawyer, would likely be an outsider to win, he was already viewed as a contender to be appointed FIFA secretary general after the Feb. 26 election.
Other probable candidates vying for the FIFA job include Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne and David Nakhid, a former player from Trinidad and Tobago.
Sheikh Salman's expected entry was already being criticized by rights groups who urged FIFA's election committee to reject him as a candidate when it conducts integrity checks.
Questions have been raised over whether Sheikh Salman adequately protected Bahrain national team players after some took part in pro-democracy protests in 2011. Some players say they were tortured while detained by government forces when the sheikh was head of the Bahrain Football Association.
When Sexwale declared his campaign on Saturday, the Apartheid-era political prisoner seemed likely to be the only African contender. But Bility said Monday that more than 25 of the 54 African voting federations offered to nominate him.
"I wanted to make sure that it was worth going into the campaign," Bility said.
AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in Manchester, England, contributed to this report.