KUALA LUMPUR: The war over Asian’s FIFA vice-presidency has intensified with AFC president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa capitalising on the anniversary of his election to promote the “positive achievements over the past year” writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The Bahraini has been engaged, ever since stepping up last year, to persuade “his” confederation to align the presidency with what is currently the separated FIFA vice-presidency.

The latter role is held currently by Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussein whose four-year term expires next spring. He has set out in no unceryain terms his opposition to Sheikh Salman’s ‘land grab’ attempt.

Sheikh Salman was elected AFC president by an overwhelming majority last year; his term also expires next year after only two years because of the complex circumstances in which he acceded to the role after the FIFA life ban imposed by Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam.

‘New chapter’

In an AFC statement with a clear dual purpose Sheikh Salman marked the first year of his leadership by reminding the Asian game of his manifesto “under the banner of unity and with a mission to reunite a divided confederation; [to] foster a stronger and more inclusive relationship with the AFC member associations; and [to] introduce initiatives based on the core principles of transparency and good governance.”

Reflecting on the past year, Sheikh Salman said that he was particularly pleased that his ongoing mission “to author a new chapter in the history of the Asian Football Confederation based primarily on more proactive engagement between the confederation and its member associations has been gathering momentum.

“Member associations have become more integrated into the decision making process in various areas relating to the development of the game while many new initiatives, such as the bidding workshop for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup,  have enabled a greater number of MAs to utilise the AFC’s expertise and broaden their own knowledge base.

“In addition to making the administrative side of the game more equal, Shaikh Salman has also worked towards ensuring MAs have more opportunities to participate in Asia’s flagship tournaments.

Ranking system

“A fairer and more transparent ranking system has been introduced that will allow more MAs to have their clubs take part in the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup while the number of teams in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup will be increased to 24, adding more fan and commercial engagement to tournament.”

In fact a blueprint to expand the Champions League had already been proposed from a round-table created by Prince Ali.

Shaikh Salman also noted his loyalty to world federation in having introduced a twin-chamber ethics committee, a code of ethics and code of conduct along the lines exemplified in the FIFA reform process.

He became a member of the FIFA exco through winning an election against Qatar’s Hassan Al Thawadi. Ironically Sheikh Salman was appointed subsequently to oversee the worldwide survey of opinion about switching the timing of the 2022 Qatar World Cup from summer to winter.

Prince Ali’s response, through his own projects including the Asian Football Development Project, will doubtless be headlined later this month during a Soccerex event in Amman.