The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has publicly offered support to Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa in the FIFA presidential race, casting doubt over the campaign of Tokyo Sexwale.
The governing body of football in Africa issued a statement on Friday to confirm that the president of the Asian Football Confederation was its preferred candidate to succeed the suspended incumbent Sepp Blatter.
"I am humbled by the support of CAF's Executive Committee and tremendously encouraged by the unanimous decision to support my bid," he said in a statement.
"I am deeply honoured to have earned the trust of many of our African friends at this crucial stage of the campaigning effort."
While the news comes as a major boost to the 50-year-old's campaign, it could represent a damaging blow to the hopes of South African Sexwale, who had hoped to gain the backing of a confederation which comprises 54 of the total 209 votes in the election.
Sexwale has been criticised in recent weeks for an underwhelming campaign so far and could now face growing pressure to withdraw his candidacy before the electoral congress on February 26.
Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou, who is head of CAF, hinted at a backing for Sheikh Salman following a cooperation agreement between the AFC and CAF last month, with Sky Sports quoting him as saying: "If we decide to support Salman, is it a crime? Who can prevent us from doing this?"
Meanwhile, Gianni Infantino welcomed six European member nations to his growing number of backers in his own campaign.
"I am proud and happy to have received the public support of six new countries today: Andorra, Austria, Georgia, Poland, Serbia and Spain," he said.
"I'd like to thank all FA presidents and show my gratitude to those who have publicly backed me."