ZURICH, Switzerland (CMC):
Suspended vice-president of the world's football governing body, FIFA, Austin 'Jack' Warner, yesterday appealed to members of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) not to boycott today's election for the leadership of FIFA and cast their vote in favour of the incumbent, Sepp Blatter.
"I know many of you are hurting and it is only human nature that you would want to demonstrate your anger, but despite all, we must not fuel a fire set by others to incinerate all that we strive for," Warner said in a letter to the CFU members.
FIFA, on Sunday pledged to investigate bribery allegations against Warner, former presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam and two Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials, temporarily suspending them from activity connected with the game.
Warner and Bin Hammam have been accused of offering US$40,000 to national associations of the CFU at a meeting on May 10 and 11 here, in return for their votes in the FIFA presidential election.
Bin Hammam was to face Blatter for the top post in the game in an election today in Zurich, Switzerland.
CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester were also suspended until a full investigation into bribery allegations against them was conducted.
Warner has said he will defend his reputation and challenge the allegations, and in his letter reminded the CFU members that they had taken a decision to back Blatter.
"I wish to assure you nothing has changed - our mandate was set then and, despite it all, we must fulfil it," Warner said, adding that "the battles I have fought over the last week are my burdens to bear; my shoulders are broad and skin is insulated to the verbal attacks I am subjected to daily.
"This is now my battle. I am humbled by all the support I continue to receive. Let us not be detracted, for your duty is to football."
Warner told the CFU members that they should not lose faith "for in life good will always prevail; there is no better education than adversity and when this is over we will rise from the ashes and, like the phoenix of legend, we will soar once more.
"We are being chastised for our belief in fair play and freedom of speech, but let not your heart be daunted. We are Caribbean people, our history is tattooed with stories of struggle, but we have always risen," Warner added.