MANAMA: FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has defended his record and dismissed accusations of human rights abuses during his time as head of the Bahrain Football Association.
Salman, head of the Asian Football Confederation, confirmed his candidacy for the FIFA presidency on Monday, but he has come under scrutiny Human Rights organisations, who claim that he had local sportsmen arrested, detained, abused, tortured while quashing democracy protests in February 2011.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said in a joint statement that Sheikh Salman “played a key role in Bahrain’s retaliation against athlete-protesters. Throughout the government crackdown, he allegedly examined photographs of the protesters, identifying Bahraini athletes for the security forces.”
Salman faced the same accusations prior to his election as AFC president in 2013.
“These are false, nasty lies that have been repeated again and again in the past and the present,” he told BBC Sport, accusing some people of having an “agenda” in making the allegations.
“I cannot deny something that I haven’t done,” he said. “It’s not just damaging me, it’s damaging the people and the country.”
The 49-year-old was initially a supporter of UEFA president Michel Platini, but after he and outgoing president Sepp Blatter were suspended for 90 days pending a full investigation by FIFA’s Ethics Committee, he was encouraged to stand himself.
Both Blatter and Platini deny any wrongdoing. and have appealed against their suspension.
Salman believes he is the man to revive an organisation which has been reeling since May when the United States indicted several FIFA officials for bribery, money laundering and fraud.
Swiss authorities are also investigating the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
With the support I’m going to get we’re going to turn it around very quick,” he said.
“We have big examples of football organisations around the world — the Premier League, the Bundesliga, even UEFA who have from a football side and a revenue side, it is not even greater than FIFA, but it is handled in a very professional way. And this is what we want to bring to FIFA.”
Eight candidates are standing in the election which will be held on February 26, 2016.
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan (former FIFA vice-president);
Musa Bility (president of the Liberian federation);
Jerome Champagne (French ex-FIFA official;
Gianni Infantino (Swiss general secretary of UEFA);
David Nakhid (one time Trinidad international);
Michel Platini (suspended president of European federation UEFA);
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa (Bahrain; Asian confederation president)
Tokyo Sexwale (South African businessman and head of FIFA’s Palestine-Israel Monitoring Commission).