AFC president calls on Asian nations to improve and announces ‘firm’ support for Sepp Blatter
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is more united than it has been before but its teams must do better on the field, Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain told delegates when he was re-elected as the body’s president on Thursday.
However, not everyone agreed with him at the 26th Asian Congress in the Bahraini capital with delegates from South Korea particularly unhappy at the way an item on the agenda regarding elections to the Fifa executive committee had been organised.
Luis Figo, one of the three men standing against incumbent Sepp Blatter in next month’s Fifa presidential elections was also unhappy at the fact the trio had been denied the chance to address delegates despite Salman declaring the AFC believed in democracy, solidarity and unity.
Shaikh Salman though, was rapturously applauded by most of the delegates from Asia’s 47 member associations as he was re-elected AFC president for another four-year term unopposed and also took his seat on the Fifa executive committee as a vice-president representing his continent.
He reaffirmed the AFC’s backing for Blatter, against Figo, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Michael Van Praag of the Netherlands in next month’s presidential vote.
The 49-year-old Bahraini royal told delegates he was delighted at the progress made in the confederation since he inherited the post from the disgraced Mohamed Bin Hammam in 2013.
“My mission has been to engender unity among member associations. I believe that in the last two years we have achieved a unity not seen before in Asian football. We are closer than at any other time in our history.
“We have achieved a lot in a short space of time but there is much more to do. It is not easy to take over a confederation in the midst of turbulence and to stabilise it,” he said.
Shaikh Salman also stressed the AFC was solidly united in support of Palestine and Qatar who both had issues to deal with.
“It is important to resist political interference in member associations and to stand up for our members, like Palestine, who need our support in the global arena.
“Also, to stand up for Qatar for their credentials and legitimacy to stage the World Cup 2022.”
The Palestine FA is in ongoing conflict with Israel in a dispute over the freedom of movement for Palestinian athletes and officials and wants Fifa to suspend its neighbour.
He said Palestine faced “an oppressive situation”, telling them, “We will be there to support you not only in words but in deeds.”
One area that does need improving, he admitted, was the performance of Asian teams on the pitch and said last year’s World Cup was a disappointment for the region with none of Asia’s four teams, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Iran reaching the second round.
That’s why he welcomed the appointment of ex-Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh as the AFC’s new technical director “with the ambition of improving the quality of coaching across the region to develop quality players.
“The vision is for an Asia from which our top teams and players regularly compete at the top level,” he said.
In closing he praised Blatter: “Dear President, rest assured the Asian football family stands firmly behind you as the AFC member associations decided in Sao Paulo last year.”
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Updated: April 30, 2015 04:00 AM