AMMAN: The three Arab candidates for the most powerful job in Asian football are being given the opportunity to go head to head in pursuit of unity and support later this week writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Yousuf Al Serkal (United Arab Emirates), Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa (Bahran) and Hafez Al Medlej (Saudi Arabia) are all challenging for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation.
They have been offered the opportunity to gather up regional support on Thursday – though whether all three will take it is another matter.
An election has been set for May 2 in Kuala Lumpur for the post opened up by the life ban imposed by FIFA on Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam for alleged misuse of AFC funds.
China’s Zhang Jilong, who has been acting president for the past two years, has withdrawn from the contest after seeing a dozen promises of votes flow toThailand’s FIFA exco member, Worawi Makudi.
Makudi hopes that he can win by default if the Arab vote splits between that region’s three candidates.
This is what makes Thursday’s campaign conference in Amman so important. It has been summoned by Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan who is not only Asia’s FIFA vice-president but also heads up the West Asian Football Federation.
Explaining the context of Thursday’s meeting, a statement from Prince Ali said: “Presidents of the West Asia member associations will be given the opportunity to hear directly from the West Asian candidates about their ideas, aspirations and plans to promote and develop Asian football.
“We look forward to seeing their football manifestos and working hard in hand in the best interest of the game inAsia.”
Asian football sources suggest it is unlikely that either Al Serkal or Sheikh Salman would stand aside for the other.
This could enhance the ‘compromise candidate’ prospects for Al Medlej who is comparatively little-known on the international scene but heads up the AFC’s important marketing commission.
The AFC has 47 member associations.
Zhang, explaining his decision to step aside, said: “I made this decision totally out of my own will and with careful thinking. I am really honoured that I was entrusted with the caretaker job while AFC was in its most difficult time.
“I am happy that I did my part to maintain the stability of AFC and my job has been done. It is time to elect a new leader for AFC.”
Al Serkal, an AFC vice-president, said – not surprisingly – that he was disappointed Zhang had pulled out.
He said: “was hoping that Mr Zhang will continue in the race. It is unfortunate to lose such a qualified person from the race. I was hoping that if I am not elected then at least he has the experience. He’s also a good person and I am not saying the other are not. But it would have been interesting to have more contestants.
“We have two zones — East and South — without any candidates. In my opinion, it will be easier now for zones to make deals.”
Asked about Thursday’s WAFF meeting, he added: ” I am hoping that if this meeting takes place, we can come up with a decision of fielding one contestant rather than three.”
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