Sheikh Salman Is Elected Asian Football Confederation President In Landslide Win
Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain has been elected the new president of Asian Football Federation "after receiving a two-third majority in the first round of voting," according to Ahmed Rizvi of THE NATIONAL. Sheikh Salman received 33 of the 46 votes, "two more than the 31 required for a two-third majority, to finish way ahead of his rivals," Worawi Makudi of Thailand and UAE FA President Yousuf Al Serkal. After his landslide win in the presidency election, Sheikh Salman "scored a second triumph at the ballots," finishing ahead of Qatar's Hassan Al Thawadi in the contest for the FIFA exec committee seat. Moya Dodd of Australia "was elected unopposed" as the female AFC VP (THE NATIONAL, 5/2). REUTERS' Patrick Johnston wrote Sheikh Salman "replaces disgraced Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam," who was banned for life by FIFA in '11 amid allegations of trying to buy votes during the lobbying process to run the world governing body. Sheikh Salman said, "Today I'm proud and happy, proud and happy to see the Asia football family gathered together. Proud and happy to see our family united under one roof in the capital of Asian football." A disappointed Al Serkal, an ally of Bin Hammam, "promised to work with Sheikh Salman for the good of Asian football after the humbling loss" in an election he had said he was the favorite to win. Al Serkal: "I will have to work with him and he will have to work with me. I'm not going to be a cause or a reason to create friction between my country or any other country. My job, my role, is to bring people together, that is the spirit of sports, the spirit of football" (REUTERS, 5/2). The AP reported Sheikh Salman was elected despite criticizm since '11 that he did not do enough "to protect national team players from human rights abuses during pro-democracy protests" in Bahrain. Sheikh Salman "gets 20 months in office to complete what was originally supposed to be bin Hammam's presidential mandate." The next scheduled election is in Jan. '15, "ahead of the Asian Cup in Australia" (AP, 5/2).
TARGET OF ACCUSATIONS: REUTERS' Johnston also wrote Sheikh Salman "barely had time to toast his landslide victory" before he was again the target of accusations over human rights abuses in Bahrain. Sheikh Salman "went on the offensive at his first news conference." Sheikh Salman: "I have no problem, I will answer that. I just have one question -- you talk about allegations, but the question is, do you have the proof? Somebody talks about the government, I don't think this our business in football, we are football people. If anybody has the proof that the Bahrain Football Association has violated the statutes of FIFA or AFC then present it, otherwise we move on" (REUTERS, 5/2).
CLEANSING THE GAME: In Sydney, Sebastian Hassett wrote Sheikh Salman "is promising to rid Asian football of the corruption that dogged the confederation under the decade-long reign" of Bin Hammam. Sheikh Salman: "My mission is to reunite our confederation. My mission is to lead our family towards a future of growth and prosperity, a future based on good governance and integrity. Today, the Asian football family is at a crossroads. Today we have the power to erase a chapter in our history" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 5/2). In Abu Dhabi, Rizvi also wrote Sheikh Salman "will take over the task of Asian football chief" from acting AFC President Zhang Jilong, of China. He "is the third AFC chief from the Middle East, and the 11th overall," since the confederation was formed in '54. Unity remains at the top of the new president's agenda, "but he has promised to get tough on the scourge of match-fixing as well." Sheikh Salman: "I feel it's a disease that is spreading. We need to have a zero tolerance and I am sure with the help of the governments, support in all countries, we can win this battle" (THE NATIONAL, 5/2). XINHUA reported Sheikh Salman has promised reform, however, when asked if he can complete his reform agenda in a short two-year term, "the Bahraini gave a vague response." Sheikh Salman said, "There are many great things that can be done in two years' time. We should expect some changes and we'd like to see smooth transition to our goals and understanding between all member associations" (XINHUA, 5/2).
PROTECTING QATAR: The AP reported defeated 2022 World Cup Organizing Committee CEO Hassan Al Thawadi said that "tournament preparations won't be damaged." Al Thawadi on FIFA's decision-making board "would have strengthened Qatar's ability to protect its interests ahead of the tournament." Al Thawadi: "It's not a blow at all. Previously we didn't have members in the executive committee. In the coming months people will see the progress being made" (AP, 5/2).
CONGRATULATORY REMARKS: FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in a statement, "I congratulate Shaikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa for his brilliant election to the Presidency of the Asian Football Confederation, as well as to the FIFA Executive Committee. One of the key missions he will have to ensure is that unity prevails within the AFC. Unity, as well as solidarity, are absolutely key and necessary pillars for any institution to build solid plans and structures for its future" (FIFA).