Asian Football Confederation Candidate Makes Late Withdrawal Ahead Of Thursday's Vote
Saudi Arabia's Hafez Ibrahim Al Medlej made a late withdrawal from the Asian Football Confederation presidential election on Wednesday, "leaving three candidates in the running," according to the AFP. No reason was given for the pull-out in an AFC statement issued late on Wednesday, less than 24 hours before Thursday's vote, "but Medlej had earlier announced his intention to withdraw to avoid diluting the Arab vote" (AFP, 5/1). XINHUA reported the remaining three candidates, Bahrain FA chief Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, UAE FA Chair Yousuf Al Serkal and Thai FIFA Exec Committee member Worawi Makudi will compete for the new AFC chief "in the first presidential election since AFC's disgraced former boss Mohamed Bin Hammam was banned for electoral fraud." Backed by Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, Sheikh Salman is considered "a frontrunner of the race" (XINHUA, 5/1).
'BITTER CAMPAIGN': The BANGKOK POST reported the AFC will elect a new leader "after a bitter campaign dominated by claims and counter-claims of outside interference, and even allegations of rights abuses." All three candidates for the presidency have been accused, at some point, "of either corruption or allowing outside powers to meddle in the vote, tempering hopes of a new era of openness and transparency." If the battle has been hard-fought, "it's because the stakes are high: the AFC, the world's biggest football confederation, has significant revenues and influence across a vast region stretching from the Middle East to Oceania" (BANGKOK POST, 5/1). In Dubai, Yasir Abbasher wrote Al Serkal "looked relaxed, confident and brimming with high morale." Al Serkal: "Everything is going our way. We have held meetings with many delegations and the responses were positive. I am happy to say that we earned additional votes, which were not with us in the first phase" (GULF NEWS, 5/1). The AFP reported Al Serkal said that the "serious" allegations of vote-buying and interference needed to be probed, "and he warned that he could launch an appeal" if his bid for the AFC presidency fails (AFP, 5/1).
PLATINI'S PLEA: INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL's John Duerden wrote UEFA President Michel Platini "has called for Asia to put an end to its in-fighting." Platini said that "the chaos that has plagued Asian football since Mohamed Bin Hammam was banned for life had caused complications," but that it was now time to put an end to all the factions. Platini: "It's time to clean and move forward. It is up to the new president to unite Asia and UEFA is ready to help them" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 5/1). INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL's Andrew Warshaw opined "claims and counter-claims, conspiracy theories bouncing back and forth, all manner of dirty tricks allegations -- and even FIFA intervention. Unity, what unity?" Less than 24 hours before the landmark ballot to elect a new leader for Asian football in succession to Mohamed bin Hammam, "the flak is flying like there is -- well -- no tomorrow, despite all the contenders stressing the need for much-needed stability in this most diverse and troubled of Continents" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 5/1).