BERLIN: Claudia Roth, vice-president of the Bundestag, and former FIFA reform guru Mark Pieth have added critical voices to Sheikh Salman’s FIFA presidency bid writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Bahraini president of the Asian Football Confederation, is considered favourite among the five candidates hoping to succeed disgraced and banned Sepp Blatter at the head of world football.

An extraordinary election congress is being staged in Zurich on February 26.

Roth, from the Green Party, urged both the German federation and European governing body UEFA, to oppose Sheikh Salman’s presidency pursuit.

She said: “It would be a travesty for the victims of massive human rights violations in Bahrain if such a person should become president of FIFA.”

Sheikh Salman has persistently denied allegations of acquiescence in the Bahraini government’s crackdown on human rights protesters in 2011.

Rules panel unimpressed

Roth, however, has remained sceptical. She said: “The pursuit of democracy and equal rights for a large part of the population, the Shiites, was crushed by brutal force. Saudi Arabia sent tanks.

“Many were dead and injured and athletes were among the arrested. There have been clear indications of torture, including a footballer.”

Last November such allegations were considered insufficient by FIFA’s electoral committee to rule Sheikh Salman out of the election.

Pieth, the Basel professor of criminal law and anti-corruption expert who led the initial FIFA reform attempt between 2011 and 2013, also raised doubts about whether Sheikh Salman qualified for the task of rescuing FIFA’s reputation.

Pieth said: “You have to ask: Is Salman, a credible representative for democracy and renewal? Is he any good? A representative of an autocratic ruling house is not suitable to lead this institution out of the crisis.”

Pieth also warned European national associations against overlooking the influence of what he described as the “Al-Khalifa support network” which includes the controversy-entwined Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah.

“The mechanism which exists we term patronage rather than mafia. But there are certain similarities. It’s about perpetuating control among people already in place.”

UEFA’s executive committee meets in Nyon on Thursday and Friday with “FIFA matters” on the agenda.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported a spokesman for the DFB as saying the theme would be discussed by senior executives on on Wednesday.