It's a Formula One weekend in Bahrain, but the man simply known as Sheikh Salman is engrossed by another kind of race with even higher stakes: trying to garner enough support to dislodge the most powerful man in Asian football. His full name is Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and as well as being the president of the Bahrain Football Association, he's a member of the nation's royal family. The 43-year-old has his sights set on defeating Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed bin Hammam when the AFC votes in 13 days for the West Asia seat on the Fifa executive committee. 'I can see the chequered flag in front of me in a very close race,' Sheikh Salman says in his office at the Bahrain Football Association (BFA), a 15-minute drive from the Sakhir racetrack. 'I watched the grand prix last year but I'm so focused on this election that I won't make it this time.' If he loses the run-off against Sheikh Salman at the AFC congress in Kuala Lumpur, Bin Hammam has pledged to step down as the regional body's president. The Qatari has held the Fifa seat for 13 years and has led Asian football since 2002. A few months ago, Sheikh Salman was virtually unknown outside the Gulf region, happy to serve in relatively low-profile roles on the Fifa and AFC disciplinary committees, in addition to his duties with his national association. So, in the lead-up to the vote on the second Friday in May - which is also Bin Hammam's 60th birthday - Sheikh Salman has been flying back and forth across the region, visiting more than 20 countries. 'Asia for Change' is his motto - and while it may not have the same resonance as 'Yes We Can' - Sheikh Salman is happy to draw parallels between his campaign and Barack Obama's march to the White House last November. 'The word change was a popular theme in another well-publicised election recently and it's no less relevant in the current climate of Asian football,' he says. 'We believe the AFC should be run by a team, not just by one man, working for the benefit of all national associations.' Sheikh Salman is by no means your archetypal football administrator. Sitting in a casual red polo shirt and speaking softly in a slight English accent, he has more the air of a low-key civil servant than the nephew of Bahrain's prime minister and cousin of the king. A Manchester United supporter who played as an attacking midfielder in the youth team of Bahraini side Riffa Club, Sheikh Salman lived in London in the mid-1980s, studying accountancy for a few months before deciding it wasn't for him. He returned home, reading English literature and history at the University of Bahrain before graduating in 1992 with a bachelor's degree. Sheikh Salman worked in his family business - construction, real estate and import-export - and was later a customs' officer for the Bahraini government. But soon after becoming vice-president of the Bahrain Football Association in 1998, the world game became his career focus. He's been BFA president since 2002 and - like Bin Hammam - has developed a warm friendship with Fifa boss Sepp Blatter, an occasional visitor to the Manama offices. 'I'd never thought of myself being so involved in football like this, but it has always been the only sport that I was really ever interested in,' he explains. Within the AFC, Sheikh Salman had enjoyed good personal relations with his fellow West Asian, Bin Hammam, and says that he'd always supported him until recently. Among his gripes: claims that revenue from the AFC Champions League isn't filtering down to member associations and that Bahrain has missed out on support from the AFC's grass-roots programme, Vision Asia. 'Bin Hammam has done both good and bad things for Asian football, but he has his own ways,' Sheikh Salman said. 'We all know the support the national associations is getting is unequal and unfair and we also need transparency.' Both men claim they will have the clear majority needed to take the Fifa seat, one of four available to Asia. Sheikh Salman is believed to have the support of the powerful East Asian bloc, including South Korea's Chung Mong-joon, a Fifa vice-president and fierce opponent of Bin Hammam. But Sheikh Salman vigorously denies he's being funded or backed by Chung, plus reports linking him to an alleged vote-buying scandal in a couple of member nations. 'It's saddening and shocking to hear false claims like that,' he said. 'Accusing me of being a puppet of whatever just shows you how personal it is getting, but for us it's not; it's just about the president's work.' As for Bin Hammam, he's not even contemplating defeat: 'Frankly speaking, I am quite confident, you know,' he said. 'It is only when I came to the AFC and Fifa that the Asian voice was heard.' Sheikh Salman insists that while he isn't personally interested in the AFC presidency, he can't take any responsibility for what Bin Hammam might do if he loses the Fifa seat. 'I've never said I'm going to force him to step down as AFC president if he loses the vote,' he said. 'It depends on him. Or it's a decision that's for all of the AFC. It's not my call.' When the gentlemen start their engines at the Bahrain Grand Prix today, Sheikh Salman won't even be on home soil. After a proposed meet-and-greet with Thailand officials in Bangkok was cancelled because of the political unrest there, he'll be rounding off the weekend in Malaysia, followed by a trip to Australia. It's a fast-paced schedule when you're in the race of your life.