Bahrain football chief ahead in AFC race
Manama, April 19, 2013
Bahrain Football Association chief Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa looks to have moved ahead in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidential race after a pivotal week saw the head of the powerful Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) give him public backing.
His closest rival, UAE soccer head Yousuf Al Serkal, is crying foul at what he perceives as OCA support ahead of the May 2 vote and believes the council is interfering in an election that has opened schisms within west Asian football.
Sheikh Salman unveiled details of his 'Asian United' manifesto earlier this week.
"I believe that he has the necessary leadership skills and vision to lead the AFC into a future of growth and prosperity," OCA head Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, also Kuwait Football Association honorary life president, said in a Kuwait FA statement earlier this week.
"As president (of the Kuwait FA) from 1991 to 2003 my focus has always been based on the fair and transparent improvement of our game both on and off the field of play," added the head of the OCA, which 'controls all the sports in Asia'.
Al Serkal, who is also running against Thailand's Worawi Makudi and Saudi Hafez Ibrahim Al Medlej, lashed out at the OCA and accused it of interfering in the election.
"They are trying hard to influence the voting," Al Serkal told reporters in Dubai earlier this month about the heavyweight support for his main rival. "If it was only (OCA chief) Sheikh Ahmad himself doing that on a personal level it would be OK.
"Anybody has the right to support one candidate or another, but since it has been done in an official way that's direct interference."
Manchester United supporter Sheikh Salman, whose key pledges are to battle corruption and matchfixing in Asia, flatly rejected the notion of interference.
"We should be more mature than that," he told Reuters in an interview in Manama. "We know that there are people supporting others and this happens in an election. If he wants to support me, he is free to support me," he noted.
"We should talk about the main issues rather than the other candidates. I think it's just a weak position if the candidate is talking about the others rather than what he is willing to do and his programme," remarked Sheikh Salman.-Reuters