KUALA LUMPUR: Kuwait’s most senior sports director has thrown his weight behind Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa in the campaign for new president of the Asian Football Confederation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Ahmed Al Sabah, an IOC member who is chairman of the Olympic Council of Asia, made Kuwait the first country to declare its intentions ahead of the AFC election in Kuala Lumpur on May 2.

Nominations do not close until March 3 and Sheikh Salman is expected to be challenged by AFC vice-president Yousuf Al Serkal from the UAE as well as by China’s Zhang Jilong who has been the AFC’s acting president for the past two years.

Another possible candidate is Saudi Arabia’s Hafez Al Medlej who is president of the AFC marketing committee.

The first response to Fahad’s announcement came from Serkal who accused the Kuwaiti, according to local media, of trying to launch a “psychological war” against him.

Serkal added: “My relationship with Shaikh Ahmed Al Fahad is deeply rooted and I will never allow the elections to spoil such a good relationship.

“Sheikh Ahmed Al Fahad has made his stand public and there’s nothing bad in that. Some countries publicise their support for one candidate or another while others keep it secret.

“We, in the UAE, are used to working away from any loudspeakers. Our target is very clear and we know how to reach it.”

Split concerns

Serkal, president of the UAE FA, does not believe that the Saudis, in the end, will nominate Al-Medlej because that risked a fatal split in the Arab vote to Zhang Jilong’s decisive advantage.

He said: “They have every right to do so, but since such a step may deepen the cracks among the Arabs, the Saudis will never take it.”

He also raised the prospect of the West Asian countries agreeing on one candidate, though this appears highly unlikely.

Serkal said: “There’s nothing official so far [about a Saudi candidate] but, in any case, if there’s an agreement on one candidate to represent the Arab countries in the elections, I would assure you that neither myself, nor Shaikh Salman will act against the will of the leadership.”

Serkal did not think his close ties to disgraced former AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam would be a campaign handicap for him.

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