The runners for Asian football's top job

The AFC President will be elected on May 2nd, Al Jazeera English looks at the four candidates eyeing Asia's biggest job.

    The runners for Asian football's top job
    Former president Mohamed bin Hammam stepped down under a corruption cloud in 2012 [EPA]

    On May 2nd, the Asian Football Confederation will elect a new president in Kuala Lumpur to replace former president Mohamed bin Hammam who stepped down last year amid corruption allegations.

    At the time of writing, and in Asian politics you can never be too sure, there are four candidates with their sights set on the big office in AFC House.

    Al Jazeera runs the rule over the quartet.

    Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa (Bahrain)

    Current Post(s): Head of Bahrain FA

    Strengths: Came very close to defeating then-AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam in a 2009 election for a seat on the FIFA Executive Committee, a campaign supported in East Asia. That experience and those contacts give Salman a profile and support across Asia that his rivals struggle to match. Has campaigned hard across the continent and has been planning for a number of years.

    Weaknesses: Can’t quite escape the issue of human rights - part of a ruling royal family that suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011 and arrested national team players for their participation. Just last week, two Human Rights groups asked FIFA to bar the Bahraini from the race.

    Chances: Looking good, started campaign early and with energy. Has attracted support outside his region.

    Vision for Asia: His slogan is Asia United. More specifically, he has pledged to create an ethics committee at the AFC in a bid to restore trust and create transparency.

    What he said: "The big advantage after the 2009 election is that people know me and I know lots of people and the relationships are ongoing…it’s time to bring unity to Asia…"

    Yousuf al-Serkal (United Arab Emirates)

    Current Post(s): Head of UAE FA, vice-president of AFC

    Strengths: Experienced and respected administrator who has worked all across the AFC in different departments and commitments. Well-liked with solid-looking support in his own region of West Asia and has been finding traction in South and South-East Asia.

    Weaknesses: Seen as a close ally of Bin Hammam, if not specifically tainted by the association.

    Chances: The main rival to Salman has been playing catch-up for much of the campaign. He received a boost from a big media drive in Dubai but it remains to be seen if he can bridge the gap.

    Vision for Asia: Unity and transparency. Has talked of opening up the organisation to scrutiny from outside and setting up a whistle-blower programme to target financial wrong-doing and match-fixing and has promised to declare all financial transactions done by the office of AFC president.

    What he said: "Most of our time in the last two years, amid all the volatility of the Confederation, has been spent working on political issues which destroys unity. I want to see an AFC where Football is the first and only topic on our agenda. I want to take fast steps to re-unite the association."

    Worawi Makudi (Thailand)

    Current Post(s): Head of Thailand FA, member of FIFA Executive Committee

    Strengths: Lots of experience and the only candidate from outside West Asia and claims support of ASEAN region which provides a solid base. Also has no problem with profile, is known around the continent.

    Weaknesses: Being known for being accused of all kinds of corruption is a problem, despite the fact he has been cleared in investigations. His claims of complete support in the ASEAN region are looking shaky and he will struggle to collect votes elsewhere in Asia.

    Chances: While the fight between Al-Serkal and Salman should leave enough scraps to keep Makudi in play for a while at least, the Thai’s chances are slim to non-existent. Worawi’s playing his own game for his own purposes and his campaign has been muted and lacklustre, though has been a little more energetic in recent days.

    Vision for Asia: Wants to redistribute some of the money in Asian football around some of the smaller nations to increase standards from the bottom.

    What he said: “I have enough support to win, I have many friends around Asia and they are supporting me. It’s a tough race with fine candidates but one that I can win…I have been cleared of all allegations by FIFA, it is a non-issue.”

    Dr Hafiz Al Medlej (Saudi Arabia)

    Current Post(s): Head of AFC Marketing Committee

    Strengths: Has the backing of powerful Saudi sports figures and others in the region, could be a compromise figure between other West Asian candidates.

    Weaknesses: Is likely to withdraw before vote if Salman and al-Serkal do not, will either be sole West Asian candidate or won’t run at all.

    Chances: Only one chance and that is that the two other West Asians can be persuaded to drop out before the vote takes place. That hope was always slim and is receding by the hour. Politics may have brought the technocrat into the race but are unlikely to intervene again and win it for him.

    Vision for Asia: Who knows? Hasn’t campaigned and has rarely spoken.

    What he said: “I am here to be a solution not a candidate, West Asia needs one candidate for the sake of unity…I will fight against Makudi but not against people from my own region.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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