ZURICH: Bahrain may be the subject of controversy over its treatment of human rights protesters but FIFA president Sepp Blatter is looking forward to flying to Manama for Thursday’s Asian Football Confederation Congress.

This may owe something to promises of Asian support in the FIFA presidential election next month, even though one of Blatter’s challengers is FIFA’s Asian vice-president Prince Ali bin Al Hussein from Jordan.

In his column in the FIFA Weekly online magazine Blatter described the congress as “another highlight in the sports administration calendar.”

He hailed AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa as “a wonderful host [and] important figurehead for integration in this continent of such multifaceted cultural diversity.”

Blatter acknowledged the progress made by the women’s game in some Asian countries including China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea.

“Last but not least,” said Blatter, “the AFC symbolises the importance of football as a school of life and an integrative force in promoting social equality.

“The fact that next year’s U17 Women’s World Cup takes place in Jordan will help iron out common misunderstandings and prejudices.

“Japan and Korea Republic set new benchmarks in 2002 with their organisation of the World Cup finals, and the South Korean team in particular captured the entire footballing world’s imagination by qualifying for the semifinals.

“At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the teams from Korea Republic, Japan, Australia and Iran contributed a great deal to the attractive tournament and the competitive, evenly-matched field. I am convinced that this was only the beginning.”

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