SINGAPORE: The head of Asian football has said he will seek re-election next year as he tries to revamp regional soccer after previous scandals and a disappointing World Cup.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa (pictured) said he wants to “set a new course” for Asian football and “restore our reputation”.
He added that he will push for an extra World Cup slot for Asian teams despite a poor showing at the current tournament in Brazil, when all four representatives departed winless.
Shaikh Salman’s re-election bid has been widely expected since he took over last year following the demise of Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam, who was accused of bribery.
“We are in the beginning stages of a long-term restructuring project and it would be great to personally see it through as I am confident it will greatly benefit the confederation,” Shaikh Salman said.
“So yes I would be pleased to continue with the presidency with the support from the member associations,” added the Bahraini royal.
Shaikh Salman won a landslide election last year to complete the third term of bin Hammam, who was barred from football after being accused of handing out cash-stuffed envelopes in a bid to be voted FIFA president in 2011.
Shaikh Salman will now seek his first full, four-year term along with Asia’s FIFA vice-presidency, after he won an agreement to merge the two powerful posts at an extraordinary AFC congress last month.
“Essentially we are working as one for the development of Asian football, and the merger (of the two positions) will complement our goal,” Shaikh Salman said.
He promised to push ahead with a campaign, supported by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, to increase Asia’s World Cup allocation of four places plus a fifth available through a play-off.
The AFC’s 46 members give it a strong voice within FIFA, while the region’s population of billions represents a huge potential market. But Asia’s progress on the world stage unexpectedly took a step back in Brazil when Australia, Japan, South Korea and Iran all failed to win.
“We are always looking at ways to increase our standing globally,” Shaikh Salman said. “Having an extra spot in the World Cup will help us in that regards but of course the spot must be earned, and we will strive to earn it.”
Shaikh Salman reaffirmed his support for the controversial Blatter, who has announced he’s ready to seek a fifth term next year — despite earlier promises not to do so. AFP