AFC elections: Asian football boss Al Khalifa seeks fresh term to stave off ‘chaos’
Incumbent looks to fight off challenge from Saudi Arabia at next year’s election
Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said he didn’t want to allow the organisation to lapse back into “chaos” as he announced a bid for re-election next year.
The Bahraini royal first took the reins in 2013 when the Asian body was still reeling from a corruption scandal which saw his predecessor, Mohamed bin Hammam, banned from football for life.
At the AFC Congress next April, Sheikh Salman could face a challenge from Saudi Arabia’s Adel Ezzat, head of a new regional bloc, the South West Asian Football Federation.
“I am proud of what we have achieved in that time and I am not ready to leave this organisation into a state of chaos,” Sheikh Salman said in a statement.
“We have all seen what the AFC was before, and we have seen what it looks like now and I hope that we can continue that progress.”
Sheikh Salman was elected by a landslide in 2013 and completed the last two years of bin Hammam’s term, before being re-elected unopposed to a full, four-year term in 2015.
His potential challenger, Ezzat, resigned as head of the Saudi football federation last month, saying he wanted to focus on the AFC elections.
While Saudi Arabia has long been a marginal player in the game, the oil-rich kingdom – currently involved in a diplomatic row with 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar – is seen as being in the midst of a push for influence in football governance.
Asian football has a chequered history after Qatar’s bin Hammam was accused of bribery during his 2011 campaign to unseat the now disgraced Sepp Blatter as president of world body Fifa.
After having a life ban annulled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, he was handed a second lifetime ban by Fifa in 2012 for conflict of interest violations.