Sheikh Salman reveals AFC re-election bid to restore region's reputation | South China Morning Post
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  • Feb 27, 2015
  • Updated: 3:00pm
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ASIA

Sheikh Salman reveals AFC re-election bid to restore region's reputation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 11:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 11:53pm

The head of Asian football said he would seek re-election next year in an attempt to revamp regional soccer after previous scandals and a disappointing World Cup.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa said he wanted to "set a new course" for Asian football and "restore our reputation".

Salman also said he would push for an extra World Cup slot for Asian teams despite a poor showing at the 2014 tournament in Brazil, when all four representatives departed winless.

We are in the beginning stages of a long-term restructuring project and it would be great to personally see it through as I am confident it will greatly benefit the confederation
Sheikh Salman

His re-election bid has been widely expected since he took over last year following the demise of Qatar's tainted Mohamed bin Hammam, who was accused of bribery.

"We are in the beginning stages of a long-term restructuring project and it would be great to personally see it through as I am confident it will greatly benefit the confederation," Salman said.

"So yes I would be pleased to continue with the presidency with the support from the member associations," added the Bahraini royal.

He won a landslide election last year to complete the third term of Bin Hammam, who was barred from football after being accused of handing out cash-stuffed envelopes in a bid to be voted Fifa president in 2011.

Bin Hammam has also been accused of giving delegates inducements during Qatar's successful campaign to secure hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

Salman will now seek his first full, four-year term along with Asia's Fifa vice-presidency, after he won an agreement to merge the two powerful posts at an extraordinary AFC congress last month.

"Essentially we are working as one for the development of Asian football, and the merger [of the two positions] will complement our goal," Salman said.

He promised to push ahead with a campaign, supported by Fifa president Sepp Blatter, to increase Asia's World Cup allocation of four places plus a fifth available through a play-off.

The AFC's 46 members give it a strong voice within Fifa, while the region's population represents a huge potential market.

But Asia's progress on the world stage unexpectedly took a step back in Brazil when Australia, Japan, South Korea and Iran all failed to win.

"We are always looking at ways to increase our standing globally," Salman said.

"Having an extra spot in the World Cup will help us massively in that regards but of course the spot must be earned, and we will strive to earn it."

Salman reaffirmed his support for the controversial Blatter, who announced that he was ready to seek a fifth term next year - despite earlier promises not to do so.

The Bahraini royal's continued backing contrasts with Uefa chief Michel Platini, who withdrew his support for Blatter after last month's Fifa congress in Sao Paulo.

Salman added that "Asian teams must learn to adapt to the intensity of these international tournaments" following their first winless World Cup in 24 years.

"They have got a taste of performing at the highest level, against the best teams and this will be the impetus for them to elevate their own standard to a higher degree," he said.

Salman said Asian standards would be helped by moves such as broadening participation in the AFC Champions League, the region's top club competition.

The AFC also has initiatives to deliver more infrastructure, funding and expertise to cash-strapped members, while a new, two-chamber ethics committee will help target corruption.

"The need for an all-around development within Asia is crucial," Salman said.

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