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New Asian football boss backs Blatter

Bahrain's Sheikh Salman backs FIFA chief for a fifth term as both call for more World Cup places for Asian teams.

Last Modified: 03 May 2013 13:43
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Newly elected head of the Asian Football Confederation Sheikh Salman said he would back Blatter, pictured above, for a fifth term, saying the 77-year-old was a ‘supporter of Asia’ [GALLO/GETTY]

Asia's new football boss backed FIFA chief Sepp Blatter for a controversial fifth term on Friday as the veteran Swiss dropped a strong hint that he may break promises to step down in 2015.

Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa gave Blatter his unqualified support a day after being elected as head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), a result hailed as "brilliant" by the FIFA president.

"I've just finished my election yesterday. In 2015, we will have to wait and see," Sheikh Salman said, after chairing his first AFC congress in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

"Of course he's (Blatter) always been a supporter of Asia and if he can fulfil and continue as a president, of course I will support him."

Dropping hints

The Bahraini royal was speaking after Blatter cheekily joked about staying on during an address to hundreds of football delegates at the AFC congress.

"This will be the last term, not of office - the last term of the reform," he said with a smile, referring to a process scheduled to be finished by 2015, when he will also complete his latest term.

When Blatter, 77, was re-elected to the post in 2011, during a raging row over corruption, he pledged reforms to clean up the world body and also promised his fourth four-year term would be his last.

Blatter has faced calls to resign this week for not doing more to stop bribes being paid to senior FIFA officials, including ex-leader Joao Havelange who stepped down as honorary president.

He declined to discuss the subject when questioned by AFP on Friday.

However, the veteran Swiss campaigner appears emboldened by Thursday's election of Sheikh Salman to the AFC presidency and FIFA executive committee.

Clean slate

The result sweeps away any remaining influence of former AFC boss Mohamed bin Hammam, who challenged Blatter for the FIFA leadership in 2011 but was accused of vote-buying and banned from football.

Asked by AFP whether Blatter had supported his campaign, Sheikh Salman said he had had no contact with the colourful Swiss before the vote.

"I haven't met him, I didn't see him since he arrived until the congress, so I've only seen him during the congress and after," he said.

However, both men spoke with the same voice on Friday when they said Asia, which provides 50 per cent of FIFA's revenues, according to Blatter, deserved to have more teams at future editions of the World Cup.

Blatter said the move, at Europe or South America's expense, would be discussed at FIFA's May 30-31 congress in Mauritius, in comments that were also backed by Sheikh Salman.

Asia currently has four automatic slots with another available via a play-off, while Europe has 13 of the total of 32 teams.

"The teams have progressed very well in the last few years and I hope we can earn more slots in the World Cup," Sheikh Salman said.

"I'm sure it would be an incentive for them to do well and hopefully develop the game more in their countries, and the competition will be greater."

Cutting Europe's representation would be seen as slight to UEFA chief Michel Platini, another Blatter rival who is widely expected to challenge for the FIFA leadership in 2015.

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Source:
AFP
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