ABU DHABI // Yousuf Al Serkal wants to move Asian football away from the "chaos" of the past few years and put the development of the game back on top of the agenda if he wins the race to become president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
The UAE football chief and AFC vice-president is one of four candidates who will stand for the post, due to be decided by vote on May 2. He is up against his Bahrain counterpart Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Hafez Al Medlej from Saudi Arabia and Thailand's Worawi Makudi.
Al Serkal has urged the other two West Asian candidates to step down and support his bid against Makudi, who has the backing of the South-east Asian region; the Arabian trio are thought to be meeting in a summit in Jordan tomorrow in a bid to agree on one candidate to battle Makudi.
As a potential replacement for the acting president Zhang Jilong - who is not running - Al Serkal comes bearing a message of solidarity. The AFC has been riven by internal divisions and bitter politicking, and embarrassed by scandal, in recent years.
"We need to have someone who can bring unity and solidarity to the AFC," he told The National on the sidelines of a UAE Football Association reception in Abu Dhabi for the Gulf Cup-winning national side.
"We have lived through the past 18 months to two years through a lot of chaos, a lot of difficult times. We've not been working and concentrating on football. Mostly, the work was politics. Now we need to close that file and we need to start looking at how we can really develop Asian football."
Makudi was cleared of suspicion by Fifa in December of breaching conflict-of-interest ethics rules after the Thailand FA used US$860,000 (Dh3.2 million) of Fifa funding to build fields and offices on land his family was believed to own.
Fifa eventually closed the investigation, saying Makudi had provided documents that showed he donated the land to the association.
Al Serkal is confident he has the support to win the vote.
"The backing starts, first of all, from home," he said. "Yes, I do have the backing from home, the UAE. Secondly, the Gulf; I believe I have the majority. Then the rest of the Arab countries I also believe I have the majority."
He believes his experience in the AFC places him as an ideal candidate to take over from Zhang, who stepped in as the acting president in May 2011 after the Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam was banned for life.
"I have been with the AFC since 1991 and I have served the AFC in a number of different committees," he said. "I've also been in the [executive committee] for a long time. I'm now a vice-president for the second term, so when it comes to experience, I believe I can say I am the most experienced, even though I think Worawi Makudi has got good experience. But there are other characteristics to consider, which I may have more of."
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