x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Yousuf Al Serkal distances himself from disgraced Mohamed bin Hammam ahead of AFC elections

The Emirati candidate denies the disgraced Qatari has been campaigning for him as friction grows ahead of presidential vote.

Yousuf Al Serkal says he has been forced to defend his reputation ahead of AFC elections. Courtesy of Hicham Tiknioune
Yousuf Al Serkal says he has been forced to defend his reputation ahead of AFC elections. Courtesy of Hicham Tiknioune

KUALA LUMPUR // Yousuf Al Serkal has dismissed media reports linking Mohamed bin Hammam with his election campaign. The UAE football chief said those rumours are being spread to drive a wedge between him and Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president.

Bin Hammam was the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) until May 2011, when he was suspended by Fifa from all football-related activities following allegations he had offered financial incentives to members of the Caribbean Football Union for their support in his bid to defeat Blatter in the Fifa election for president.

The Qatari has stayed out of footballing matters since then, but recent media reports in Bahrain suggest Bin Hammam has been campaigning for Al Serkal.

Al Serkal, a candidate in Thursday's AFC presidential election in Kuala Lumpur, said the reports are inaccurate.

"Bin Hammam is a friend and I've never denied that," Al Serkal said yesterday.

"But he is in Qatar, busy with his own business. He is not interfering and I don't need his interference.

"I have my own contacts through all these years that I have served in the AFC. I was a member of the exco [AFC's executive committee] before Bin Hammam became a member. So I don't need him to create any contacts for me. I have as many contacts, if not more, as he does or did.

"The intention behind raising such an issue is only to create a friction between myself and Fifa, and this won't work because I'm in direct contact with Mr Blatter and he knows that I'm a very close supporter of his presidency.

"I will never have any issues against him or interfere into Fifa's private affairs."

Al Serkal said the supporters of one of his rivals for the presidency, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim of Bahrain, were trying "to create a negative picture" between him and Fifa.

Sheikh Salman's most prominent ally is Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad, the Kuwaiti president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Sheikh Ahmad backed Sheikh Salman in the 2009 AFC elections against Bin Hammam, as well. The Bahraini lost narrowly back then.

Later yesterday, the Kuwait Football Association sent out letters to all AFC member associations, signed by Sheikh Ahmad, suggesting Al Serkal was the primary source behind allegations of improprieties in Sheikh Salman's campaign.

Said Al Serkal: "I have no link or connection whatsoever with these reports. It is an attempt to damage my campaign, but I have full confidence in the Asian football fraternity.

"The UAE Football Association will address all members of the

"AFC to explain the truth to them. We had hoped these elections will be held in an atmosphere of fair play and understanding, but things have taken a serious turn and we have to defend our reputations."