x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

New AFC president Sheikh Salman pledges to unite Asian football

Bahrain national also promises to get tough on problems of match-fixing across Asia, writes Ahmed Rizvi from Kuala Lumpur.

Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa won an overwhelming mandate to become president of the Asian Football Confederation. Vincent Thian / AP Photo
Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa won an overwhelming mandate to become president of the Asian Football Confederation. Vincent Thian / AP Photo

Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa promised a "corrective and decisive" Asian Football Confederation on Thursday after his stunning landslide win at the ballots to choose the new Asian football chief.

The elections, also featuring AFC veterans Yousuf Al Serkal and Worawi Makudi, were expected to be a close affair, but Sheikh Salman clinched it in the first round with a clear two-thirds majority. The Bahraini pooled 33 of the 46 votes, while Worawi was a distant second with seven and the UAE Football Association president received six.

"It's a new day for the AFC and I am delighted, honoured and humbled about the votes, the confidence and the support I have received from the general assembly," Sheikh Salman said after his victory. "So I thank them for their support, especially the ones who have voted for me. The ones that haven't, of course, I have to work hard to gain their support for the future."

Sheikh Salman will take over the task of Asian football chief from China's Zhang Jilong, who was the acting AFC president since Mohammed Bin Hammam's suspension in 2011 on charges of vote buying. He is the third AFC chief from the Middle East, and the 11th overall, since the confederation was formed in 1954.

Unity remains at the top of the new president's agenda, but he has promised to get tough on the scourge of match-fixing as well.

"I feel it's a disease that is spreading," the Bahraini said. "We need to have a zero tolerance and I am sure with the help of the governments, support in all countries, we can win this battle.

"I don't think we can tackle that from the football side alone. I think we need good policing, good government support and overall, we have to look at Fifa and what kind of support they can give us because this is a global responsibility – not just for Asia, but the whole world.

"I am sure that we in the AFC and the Executive Committee will look at that very carefully and try to create a mechanism to tackle match fixing issue in Asia."

Sheikh Salman has also promised to sit down with the two defeated candidates – Al Serkal and Worawi, who will retain their position of vice-president and Fifa Executive Committee member respectively in the AFC – and seek ways to work together and help the AFC gain the recognition it deserves in world football.

"They are part of the AFC and ExCo and we will meet and discuss whatever is best for football," Sheikh Salman said. "There is nothing personal about it. I accept the democracy we have seen today at our congress and I am sure they will do the same.

"I will be looking forward to working together with them and all my other colleagues, and doing what is best for Asia. In the coming months, I will be working hard to unify the whole Asia family. And I think this is possible with the support of everybody and through dialogue.

"I feel they [the member associations] are already convinced that we need a united Asia for the strength this confederation should have so that its voice can be heard not just within this continent, but worldwide."

Sheikh Salman also won contest for the Fifa Executive Committee seat, defeating Qatar's Hassan Al Thawadi of Qatar by 28 votes to 18. Australia's Moya Dodd was re-elected unopposed as the AFC vice-president (Female) for the term 2013 until 2015, while North Korea's Han Un-gyong and Susan Shalabi Molano of Palestine were elected as AFC Executive Committee female members from the East and West respectively.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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