MELBOURNE: Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, most powerful mover and shake in Asian sport, is standing by his IOC colleague Sepp Blatter in next year’s FIFA presidential election writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The Kuwaiti, who heads both the Olympic Council of Asia and the Association of National Olympic Committeeswas responding to this week’s candidacy declaration by Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan.

Prince Ali, nearing the end of his term as Asian vice-president of the world federation, has been increasingly sidelined within Asian football by AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa from Bahrain.

Sheikh Salman owed his own accession to Asian football power to support from Sheikh Ahmad.

In an interview with Fairfax Media in Australia, which hosts the imminent Asian Cup, Sheikh Ahmad set out his own opinion on the FIFA presidential in May in which Blatter will be seeking a fifth term in office.

He said: “I am with Blatter and I say that openly. I was even surprised that Prince Ali announced himself as a candidate. I respect Prince Ali as a brother but I wish Blatter to have one more term.”

An AFC congress in Brazil in the summer offered Blatter an acclamation of support and Sheik Ahmad said: “This [support] is a commitment from my football federation, from my country, and if I don’t respect my commitment and continue with that, then nobody would respect us.

“That’s why we’re going with Blatter. Salman also already committed. All of us have committed to Blatter before Prince Ali showed his interest.”

Earlier in the day  Alex Soosay, general secretary of the AFC, also insisted that Prince Ali of Jordan’s challenge for the FIFA presidency will not shift official backing for Blatter.

Soosay said: “We made a pledge in congress in Brazil that the entire Asian football family was supporting the FIFA president. As Asia we should also stay together and be united rather than divided.

“For us the Asian Cup is paramount and I’m sure the member associations don’t want to be affected by this situation. We just want to focus on football.”

Prince Ali, a reformist member of the FIFA executive committee and its Asian vice-president, said this week that it was time “to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport . . . The world’s game deserves a world-class governing body. The headlines should be about football, not about FIFA.”

Blatter has welcomed Prince Ali’s challenge because “we are a democracy which can only be strengthened by debate.”

A third declared candidate is Jerome Champagne, a French former FIFA official.

The Oceania Football Confederation, which has just re-elected David Chung as president, has also said it will support Blatter – although this may depend on indications as to whether the OFC is to be granted a guaranteed slot at the World Cup finals. Currently the top OFC qualifier nation has to be play off against a team from another region.

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