Exclusive - Bahrain and UAE Football Chiefs Set Sights on AFC Presidency
July 12, 2012
Bahrain football federation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa (WFI)
(WFI) World Football INSIDER understands that Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa is set to join United Arab Emirates FA president Yousuf Al-Serkal in a battle for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation if Mohamed Bin Hammam loses his corruption appeal later this month.
"The interest is there from both of us. Once we know the dates of the election, it could be maybe the end of this year, then I think things will be more clear," Sheikh Salman, head of the Bahraini FA, told INSIDER.
The AFC executive committee meets on July 19 at which a date may be set for presidential elections.
But that decision will only come if Bin Hammam fails in his appeal against FIFA's lifetime ban from football at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He was found guilty by FIFA's ethics commission of offering $40,000 cash bribes to Caribbean Football Union members during last year's FIFA presidential election.
A spokeswoman for the CAS told INSIDER that the award was being finalised but no date was set for the verdict to be announced. Bin Hammam is expected to learn his fate within the coming two weeks.
Should the CAS rule against the 63-year-old Qatari, the decision would allow the AFC to set an election date and invite nominations for presidential candidates.
Asked what needed to change in the leadership of Asian football, Sheikh Salman said: "There's a lot to talk about when the time is right.
"It's still early to talk about what plans and programmes we want to implement or introduce. Once it is clear when the election is then probably we will talk about it."
Zhang Jilong has been acting AFC president since Bin Hammam's suspension last summer. While the Bahraini says Zhang has done well, he also believes Asian football needs a boost. The Chinese is also a rival; he's made no secret of his
China's Zhang Jilong wants the AFC presidency on a permanent basis (Getty)
desire to get the top job in Asian football on a full-time basis.
"I think there is an understanding that we need to move on, no matter what happens with the decision on the suspended president. We will just have to wait and see," Sheikh Salman said.
Sheikh Salman fought a bitter presidential election campaign against Bin Hammam in 2009. But he declined to comment when asked if Bin Hammam had tarnished the image of Asian football.
"He's a friend... it's something that happened, although I stood against him in the election in 2009, but this shouldn't take anything away from him. I'm sure he did a lot of nice things for the AFC to promote AFC's competitions etc. There's always the good and bad in everybody," he said.
Al-Serkal said he was keen on taking the reins of the AFC if Bin Hammam failed in his appeal.
"Yes, myself I am interested," he told INSIDER.
Asked if he enjoyed strong support from West Asia and beyond, he said: "I am sure there are people who are supportive and people who are not. I feel like there is good support."
The AFC vice president, an ally of Bin Hammam, will be hoping the friendships he has forged in his 21 years of involvement with the confederation will be repaid during an election campaign.
But he would not be drawn into talking about what he would bring to the AFC presidency, preferring to wait until the outcome of the CAS decision is known.
"It's important to get a president whether new or old... it's important to have a leader," he added.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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